A tractor is one of the most
useful machines on a farm, but it
can be one of the most dangerous if
it is not handled with care.
Statistics from all over Australia
show that tractors are the main
cause of deaths on farms.
All too often, farm workers,
farmers? wives and children are
killed or seriously injured by
falling from moving tractors or
being crushed when tractors tip over
sideways or roll over backwards.
Deaths and injuries resulting from
tractor accidents like these can be
Safe work practices can save lives.
Tipping over sideways or rolling
over backwards are the types of
tractor accidents that invariably
result in death or serious injury.
Drivers and passengers involved in
these accidents have little or no
chance to get clear as the tractor
tips or rolls.
Therefore, it makes sense that all
wheeled tractors must be fitted with
roll over protection structures
(ROPS). Falling object protective
structures (FOPS) also prevent
accidents that happen when trees and
fall onto tractors.
The law requires all tractors
manufactured, imported or originally
purchased after 1 January 1981 and
weighing between 560 and 3860 kg to
be fitted with ROPS. This is not
applicable when the tractor is
primarily used under trees or in
places too low for ROPS to be
fitted, or the tractor is in a fixed
position, that is, used as a
ROPS are required on all earth
moving equipment (within the scope
of AS 2294) manufactured, imported
or purchased after 1 January 1989.
Many people believe that tractors
will only turn over in steep or
hilly country. The risk in these
areas is high, but records show that
tractor accidents happen in all
kinds of places. An Australian study
of over 400 accidents found more
than half occurred when the tractors
were on flat or slightly sloping
ground. Often these accidents
involved obstacles like stumps and
stones, or ruts and ditches.
The design of wheeled tractors means
they can be unstable in many working
situations and even very experienced
drivers sometimes will find that
they can- not overcome all of the
Safe work practices will reduce the
risks and roll over protection
structures will help to protect the
driver and passengers if an accident
Passengers falling from tractors is
the most common type of tractor
accident resulting in death or
injuries. One most disturbing fact
with these accidents is the number
of children involved, some as
drivers and others as passengers
riding on the tractor or on the
It is a dangerous practice to allow
passengers of any age on a tractor,
unless each passenger is sitting in
a proper seat that has been shaped
or fitted with a back- rest so that
the person will not slip out of the
seat. Passengers also need adequate
and convenient footrests and
Do not allow passengers, especially
children, to ride on a tractor
unless the tractor has been fitted
with the proper equipment and the
passengers are securely seated at
all times. Power transmission
equipment (PTO Shafts) attached to
tractors for the purpose of driving
other machines is another well known
hazard. Guards on power transmission
equipment and all associated
components will reduce the risk of
any part of the body or clothing of
a person from coming into contact
with the moving parts.
But even the cleverest acronyms in
the world can?t protect the
individual against all possible
dangers. And stupidity always rises
to the surface. For example, if the
driver doesn?t wear a seat belt and
the tractor rolls over and tumbles
down a steep hill, the risk of death
or serious injury is huge even with
ROPS of the highest standard.
Rolling over either laterally or
backwards are the most dangerous
The general view is that the
majority of crashes occur on steeply
sloping terrain. Nevertheless, as
many as 50 per cent of mishaps occur
on ground that is either flat or
with a very gradual slope. Obstacles
such as stumps, large stones, deep
ruts and ditches are quite capable
of upsetting a vehicle whose centre
of gravity is high and which is
inherently unstable. Taking corners
too fast can provoke a rollover.
Falling from tractors (which is a
major achievement if you are wearing
a seat belt) is the single greatest
cause of fatalities. Children should
never be allowed to ride shotgun
unless they are wearing a seat belt
and are securely (and comfortable)
located. It is unlikely that many
tractor drivers wear a tie or a
billowing skirt on the job but make
sure that none of your clothing can
get caught up in the mechanicals.
Wear close-fitting gear. Guards
should be fitted to PTO shafts and
all associated machinery. Don?t wear
dancing shoes on the tractor but
choose footwear with a firm grip.
Read all of the
manufacturer?s operating instructions.
Keep all guards
securely in place.
Safety cabs or
frames must be fitted and properly maintained in accordance
with the regulations.
away from tractors and machinery.
Ensure that you
are competent to drive your tractor.
Rest if tired.
Tired drivers have more accidents.
Always ride on
the seat. Adjust the seat so that all of the controls can be
operated comfortably and safely.
If another person
sits in the tractor with you, a safe, secure seat, handholds
and adequate footrests
must be provided.
check to make sure that the tractor is in neutral and the
brake is on.
Check that the
power take-off is guarded.
Do not start the
tractor while standing on the ground.
Exhaust fumes can kill. Avoid running the tractor in a garage or a poorly ventilated area.
Many tractor operators have been killed because attached
equipment or leads were hitched too high.
attachments according to the manufacturer?s instructions.
Always use the
draw bar, or the mounting points provided by the
manufacturer, for attaching equipment. Do not use makeshift
Do not alter,
modify or raise the height of the draw bar.
When a power
implement is attached to the tractor, be sure that all
guards are in place before operating.
around the axle housing or to the top link pin. Hitching to
the axle or seat bracket or top link can cause the tractor
to overturn backwards.
Do not attempt to
adjust implements while they are in motion.
Do not use or
attach implements unless the power shaft, take-off and input
hitched load helps to keep the front wheels on the ground.
heavy loads or when pulling vehicles from a bog, use reverse
gear and pull from a hitch point on the front of the
tractor. The tractor cannot turn over backwards using this
Drive at speeds
slow enough to retain control over the unexpected. Hidden
hazards, such as rabbit holes and stumps, can be killers.
Recommended top speed is 12km/hr, except when travelling on
a good level
before turning or apply turning brakes. Speed may cause the
tractor to overturn.
When working on
silage stacks, do not drive too near the edge. Always back
up the slope.
Watch out for
ditches, embankments and depressions. Crumbling and slippery
banks have caused many overturns.
When stuck in mud
or a hole, do not put planks, poles or other objects in
front of the back wheels and attempt to drive forward. The
back wheels may dig in and the front of the tractor will
cause causing the tractor to roll over back wards.
When stuck, back
out. If that does not work, get help.
On very steep
slopes, if you have no trailing implements, back up for
Engage the clutch
gently when going up hill or towing
Use as wide a
wheel track as possible when working on hillsides and
cautiously. Keep the tractor in low gear and allow the motor
compression to act as a brake.
driver from falling objects by fitting an adequate canopy to
tractors used for logging or working under timber.
Do not use
wheeled tractors for the direct pulling of trees.
logs, do not back the tractor against a tree to gain extra
Keep all cables
and chains in good condition and store correctly when not in
Watch out for
dead limbs on trees - any movement of the tree could bring
Do not attempt to
dismount from a moving tractor.
If you dismount
from a tractor while the engine is running, make sure that
the parking brake is on and the gear lever is in neutral.
your tractor. Make sure that your tyres and brakes are
always in top condition.
Do not remove or
replace belts while the pulleys are under power.
Stop the engine
before refueling, servicing or greasing. If possible, wait
until the engine is cold before refueling.
If the engine
overheats, allow time for it to cool off before removing the
radiator cap. When removing the cap, be extremely careful to
avoid being scalded by steam, which has built up pressure in
any tractor wheel, chock the other wheels.
lifting arrangements. Use a wide- based jack of adequate
lifting capacity. When the tractor is jacked up, block it
evenly for additional support. Use wood for chocks, not
bricks or building blocks. These have been known to crumble
causing the tractor to crush the operator. Before removing a
tyre from the rim, make sure that all the air pressure has
Commonsense and a sound knowledge
tractor safety will prevent many
The Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Act, 1986 places a
general duty of care on every person in a work- place -
employers and employees - to do all that is possible to make
sure that the workplace is safe and healthy.
On 3 April 1995 the consolidated Occupational Health, Safety and
Welfare Regulations, 1995, were introduced. These regulations
cover health and safety in the work- place, including farm
The duty of care for a farming-related employer is to ensure
that employees are not exposed to hazards while they are
working. Employers have to organize safe systems of work,
provide information, instruction, training and supervision,
provide adequate protective equipment and consult with employees
when health and safety issues arise.
For farmers, there is the added responsibility of ensuring the
safety of children, who view the farm more as their home and
playground, than as a workplace.
Equally, there is a responsibility on employees to cooper- ate
with their employers, observe health and
safety provisions and to take reasonable care to protect
themselves and others.
All of the people who design, manufacture, import, supply, erect
or install machinery must make sure that operators are not
exposed to hazards when they are using the machinery properly.
The legislation applies to all farm workplaces and any other
place where farmers are likely to be in the course
of their work. It covers all of the work activities on a farm
and the use of all farming machinery, including tractors.
With tractor safety,
it means that farmers are responsible for their own safety, for
the safety of any employees,
their families, and, in certain situations, for the safety of
the general public when they are in a place where tractors are
Under Australian law,
all tractors manufactured, imported or originally purchased
after 1 January 1981 must be fitted with rollover protection
structures (ROPS). Exceptions are machines weighing less than
560 kilograms or more than 3860 kilograms, or those which are
used primarily under trees or in other places where there is not
enough room above the tractor for an ROPS, or those that operate
in a fixed position as an engine. Much of tractor safety is
encompassed by the rhyming acronyms ROPS and FOPS (Falling
Objects Protection Structure). FOPS are mandatory on all
earthmoving equipment manufactured, imported or purchased after
1 January 1989.
gear. If you are stuck, try to reverse. This is also the
preferred approach for steep ascents. Descend big hills in first
gear, using engine braking. It is a good idea to walk difficult
terrain before driving on it. How deep is that patch of mud? Is
the bottom of that rut firm? Never hitch above the centre-line
of the rear axle, around the housing or to the top link pin. A
correctly hitched load makes it less likely that the front
wheels will part company with terra firma (never a good party
trick, despite what motorcyclists like to demonstrate).
Try to limit
speed to 12 km/h unless you are driving on a decent surface
like a bitumen road.
arrive at the bleeding obvious. Never dismount when the
tractor is moving.
Make sure the
handbrake is engaged (and working) before getting off.
Always get into
the driver?s seat before starting the engine.
Keep the steps
and pedals free of grease.
changing a wheel when the surface is flat and chock the
other wheels regardless. The jack should have a wide base
and adequate load capacity.
Think about your
health. A tractor is such a useful device that it may become
your home office. Choose a model that has a suspension seat
which absorbs much of the shock. Long exposure to vibration can
cause back damage.
with age even if the tractor is not used often. The simple
presence of tread does not tell the whole tale. Check for dry
rot and cracks. (Tyres can easily set you back $1000, which
changes the value equation on a cheap tractor.)