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Tractor safety

All farms need to manage the risks of injury that come with using agricultural plant and machinery. Tractors are immense and powerful machines and have caused many serious injuries and deaths on farms. Before undertaking any tractor-related activity take the time to consider the risks associated with the activity and ensure all safety precautions are in place before commencing work.

Safety solutions

  • Always start a tractor from the driver’s seat, not from the ground.
  • Never dismount from a moving tractor or adjust or work on implements while they are in motion.
  • If provided, safety mechanisms must not be tampered with.
  • Always use three points of contact when getting on and off a tractor.
  • Do not use or attach power take-off (PTO) driven implements unless the power take-off shaft is guarded.
  • Look up for clearances of power lines overhead and look down for signs for underground power lines.
  • Do not park a tractor on a steep slope.
  • Remove the key when the tractor is not in use.
  • Make sure all operators are trained and competent to safely use tractors.
  • Always wear a seat belt where fitted.


Components which should be guarded for your safety include:

  • any rotating shaft, gear, cable, sprocket, chain, clutch, coupling, cam or fan blade
  • any crushing or shearing points (e.g. augers, slide blocks, roller feeds, conveyor feeds)
  • ground wheels and track gear
  • any machine component which cuts, grinds, pulps, crushes, breaks or pulverises farm produce
  • hot parts where the surface temperature exceeds 120°C in normal operation.

Front end loader attachments

Front end loader (FEL) attachments mounted to tractors that are widely used include:

  • single or multi-purpose buckets
  • pallet forks
  • bale and silage spikes/clamps and grapples
  • blades and scrapers
  • lifting jibs.

While you may have used a tractor fitted with an FEL on many occasions, it is good practice to refresh your knowledge. You should consider the following:

  • The operator should possess the appropriate level of skill and knowledge, including having read and understood the manufacturer’s operating instructions.
  • The correct attachment for the job should be used. If not used correctly, there is potential for the carried objects or loads to roll back or fall on the operator.
  • The attachment should be suited to the make and model of the tractor being used.
  • Select the most appropriate FEL to lift the load.
  • The tractor should be fitted with a falling object protective structure (FOPS) to protect the operator.
  • Ensure you are working within the manufacturer’s Rated Operating Load and not exceeding the specified Working Load Limit.
  • The axle, wheels and tyres of the tractor should accommodate the weight of the FEL when fully loaded.
  • Ensure you do not breach the lift capacity of the tractor’s hydraulic system.
  • The pressure should be equal, including all pressure released out of the system before coupling or uncoupling hydraulic fittings.
  • Ensure attachments are stable or fixed so they will not move when being connected or disconnected.
  • There should be adequate clearance between tractor front tyres and the FEL frame to eliminate contact during turns.
  • The tractor should be stable when operating a fully loaded FEL.
  • Fully assess the operating conditions related to the density of material, dimensions of the load, speed of travel, load height during travel and terrain surface.

Prior to operating a Telehandler (telescopic handler) all operators should undertake a competency training course. Telehandlers are often much lighter in mass than a straight FEL, so it is critical to consider options when determining the weight ratios with the different attachments and loads.

Protective structures

Rollover protective structures

In South Australia, as of 1 January 2016, a rollover protective structure (ROPS) is required to be fitted to all rural mobile plant with a weight of 560kg to 15 tonne.

Previously this only applied to post-1981 vehicles with a weight of 560kg to 3.86 tonne.

The design of the ROPS must be sufficient to provide protection for the operator against roll-over.

It may not be reasonably practicable to operate a tractor under trees or within an enclosed space with an approved ROPS fitted. There is a case for lowering or removing the ROPS in these situations, provided the tractor is operated with due care, and that the ROPS is returned to its normal state immediately afterwards.

Falling object protective structures

You must fit a falling object protective structure (FOPS) to any rural mobile plant if any activity is undertaken which involves a risk to the operator of being struck and injured by a falling object.

Further information

Safety alerts

Tractors - Three-point linkage connections