All farms need to manage the risks of injury that come with using agricultural plant and machinery. Tractors are powerful machines that 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.

Working safely

When working with or on a tractor:

  • always start the 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
  • never tamper with safety mechanisms (if provided)
  • always use three points of contact when getting on and off a tractor.
  • only use/attach a power take-off (PTO) driven implement with a guarded power take-off shaft.
  • 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 the tractor
  • always wear a seat belt where fitted
  • check for people or animals (including under the tractor, particularly if being used near small children) before moving the tractor.

Guarding

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 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:

  • do you have the appropriate level of skill and knowledge, including having read and understood the manufacturer’s operating instructions?
  • is the correct attachment fitted for the load? Using the incorrect attachment may introduce the risk of having the carried object or load roll back or fall on you.
  • is the attachment suited to the make and model of the tractor being used?
  • does the tractor have a falling object protective structure (FOPS) fitted for your protection?
  • are you working within the manufacturer’s rated operating load and not exceeding the specified working load limits?
  • can the tractors axle, wheels and tyres accommodate the weight of the FEL when fully loaded?

When using a FEL fitted with an attachments, check:

  • the attachments are stable or fixed so they will not move when being connected or disconnected
  • there is adequate clearance between tractor front tyres and the FEL frame to eliminate contact during turns
  • the tractor is stable when operating the FEL fully loaded
  • the operating conditions such as the density of material, dimensions of the load, speed of travel, load height during travel and terrain surface.

Hydraulics

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.

Telescopic handler and multi-purpose tool carriers

Prior to operating a telehandler (telescopic handler or multipurpose tool carrier) you must be competent in its use and have received training by a competent person.

Where a telehandler is configured to utilise various attachments, you must have completed competency training and/or be licensed to the corresponding class of high risk plant.

Telehandlers are often much lighter in mass than a straight front end loader, so it is critical to consider options when determining the weight ratios with the different attachments and loads.

Protective structures

Rollover protective structures

A rollover protective structure (ROPS) is required to be fitted to all tractors weighing between 560kg to 15 tonne. Prior to 2016, this only applied to post-1981 vehicles weighing between 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.

Three-point linkage connections

Three-point linkages, commonly used to fit attachments behind tractors, are standardised mechanisms consisting of an adjustable top link centred above two lower lifting links.

Workers have been injured while clearing items such as rocks and logs from underneath attachments connected to tractors via these linkages.

In one instance, a chain and two D-shackles had been used as the top link between a tractor and a slasher to provide a flexible connection for rough terrain.

A pin fell out of one of the D-shackles and the slasher dropped onto a worker as they tried to remove an obstruction. The D-shackle pins had not been secured with a split pin or similar fastening device, but had remained secure due to the distortion of the pin caused by the load.

The D-shackle pin may have worked loose during normal machine operation, as there was no secondary fastening system in place.

When using 3-point linkage connections you should:

  • always conduct a pre-start check prior to use
  • never work or stand under suspended machinery that is not supported by suitably designed props or stands
  • never use wood to support the machinery
  • replace chain connections with an adjustable bar or some other method, where possible
  • secure all D-shackle pins with a secondary fastening device, if a chain must be used.

Further information

Page last updated: 27 February 2020