Farm equipment may include any mechanical or electrical device that transmits or modifies energy to perform a variety of tasks. Examples of farm equipment include:
- manure spreaders
- bale choppers
- power washers
Hand tools are not covered here.
Tractors and other self-propelled equipment is about the hazards of operating a tractor with an attachment. This page addresses the hazards specific to the attachment.
As an employer on a farming operation, you have an obligation to protect the health and safety of your workers. If you have workers operating farm equipment this obligation includes:
- providing information, instruction and supervision to workers
- maintaining equipment in good condition
- making sure all safety devices are operational
- maintain records of inspection of safety devices
- advise the operator to use farm equipment for its intended purpose, as specified by the manufacturer and outlined in the operator's manual
If farm equipment is modified, you and your operator should consider how the modifications affect the safe operation of the equipment.
All safety decals attached to a tractor should be visible and easy to read. Replace damaged or missing safety decals with new ones, if available.
You should develop and use lockout procedures for each piece of equipment to ensure that power is disconnected during repairs or adjustments to the equipment. Equipment should be locked out before shields or guards are removed for maintenance purposes. Shields and guards should be re-installed before work is started again.
Equipment operators should always shut off the power and use a lockout procedure before attempting to clear plugged equipment. See lockout procedures for farming operations.
You should make sure that shields and guards are in place on all farm equipment as the manufacturer recommends.
If using a shield or guard prevents a piece of farm equipment from performing its intended purpose, you should guard against the hazard as much as possible and use additional measures to protect workers. Examples of additional measures include:
- installing a warning device such as an alarm
- developing alternate work procedures that allow workers to perform the task safely
- providing personal protective equipment
Hazards of farm equipment
Different types of farm machinery tend to have similar characteristics and parts including:
- cutting edges
- revolving shafts
- rotating blades
The main hazards associated with exposure to these parts include:
- shear/cutting points
- pinch points
- wrap points
- crush points
- pull-in points
- free-wheeling parts
- hydraulic systems
Shear points are created when the edges of two objects are moved close enough together to cut a material, as in the case of a pair of shears or an auger. Cutting points are created when a single object moves forcefully or rapidly enough to cut, as in the case of a sickle blade.
Shear points and cutting points are hazards because of their cutting force, and because they often move so rapidly that they may not be visible. Workers should be aware of shear points and shields or use guards to prevent exposure or access.
Pinch points form when two objects move together and at least one of them is moving in a circle. For example, the point at which a belt runs onto a pulley is a pinch point. Belt drives, chain drives and gear drives are other examples of pinch points in power transmission devices.
Body parts such as fingers, hands and feet can be caught directly in pinch points, or they may be drawn into the pinch points by loose clothing that becomes entangled. Workers should be aware of pinch points and shields or use guards to prevent exposure or access.
Rotating shafts are the most common source of wrap point accidents, although any exposed machine part that rotates can be a wrap point. Clothing or hair can catch on a rotating part.
The ends of shafts that protrude beyond bearings are also dangerous. Universal joints, keys and fastening devices can also snag clothing. Entanglement with a wrap point can pull a worker into the machine, or clothing may become tightly wrapped, crushing or suffocating a worker.
Workers who operate machinery should be aware of wrap points and should not wear loose clothing. In addition, operators should use shields or guards where possible to prevent access.
Two objects can create crush points when they move toward each other or one object moves toward a stationary one. For example, hitching a tractor to an attachment may create a potential crush point and failure to block up equipment safely can result in a crushing injury.
Crushing injuries most commonly occur to fingers. To prevent a crushing injury, workers should be aware of crush points and wait until a tractor has stopped before stepping into the hitching area. Workers should also arrange the hitch point to back the tractor into position without a worker being in the path and should block any machine that can move before doing any work under or near it.
Pull-in points usually occur when plant material or other obstacles become stuck in feed rolls or other machinery parts, preventing the mechanism from operating. A worker trying to free such material without shutting down or locking out the power can be rapidly pulled into the mechanism when the material is freed. (See lockout procedures for farming operations )
Many machine parts continue to spin after the power is either shut off or locked out. Workers should not start repair or maintenance work until all parts have stopped moving, even if equipment is locked out. This may take a few minutes.
Examples of free-wheeling parts include:
- cutter heads of forage harvesters
- hammer mills of feed grinders
- rotary mower blades/fans
Springs are commonly used to help lift equipment such as shock absorbers and to keep belts tight and may harbour potentially dangerous stored energy. Springs under compression will expand with great force when released while stretched springs will contract rapidly when released.
A worker should know in which direction a spring will move and how it might affect another machine part when released and stay out of its path.
Hydraulic systems store considerable energy and are used to:
- lift and change the position of attachments
- operate hydraulic motors
- assist in steering and braking
Leaks from hydraulic systems are a serious hazard because of the high pressure and temperature of the fluid contained in the system. Even fine jets of hydraulic fluid can burn or pierce skin and tissue.
- never inspect hydraulic hoses with their hands
- wear long sleeves, heavy gloves and safety glasses when checking for leaks
- always follow the instructions in the operator's manual because the specific procedures for servicing these systems are very important for one's safety
Where appropriate, a properly qualified and certified mechanic should perform repairs and maintenance. Workers should not perform work under raised hydraulic equipment.