How safe are your farm workers REALLY when operating farming equipment and machines?

Farmer on tractor

Using any type of farming equipment, such as machines, tools or implements should not be viewed as child’s play. It is not only inexperienced people who need to exercise extreme caution when operating farming equipment, for accidents can occur in a split second to even the most knowledgeable and experienced farmers. Quite often, farmers feel so confident using machines that they no longer implement basic safety rules, and this oversight can result in them sustaining an injury. In such cases, one may say that they were in fact negligent. Research into the safety requirements for operating farming equipment has shown that accidents occur when people

  • do not follow instructions to the letter
  • try to save time
  • ignore warnings, or
  • fail to maintain equipment properly.

Safety Precautions for Operating Farming Equipment

Here follows some strict safety precautions that farmers and workers ought to be familiar with when operating farming equipment, such as vehicles, machines, tools, or implements:

Vehicles that are driven

  • Only one person should be allowed to drive and be in control of a vehicle such as a tractor or harvesting machine, and that person should have received proper training to drive the vehicle.
  • The person driving the vehicle must always wear the seatbelt provided.
  • The driver should never allow children or other people to climb onto the vehicle and to ride along with it. The extra weight could unbalance the vehicle, especially on uneven terrain, and it could topple over and the person could land under it. Research has shown that most fatalities occur when there are additional unauthorised people in or on vehicles.
  • It is also important that vehicle drivers should be sober at all times.
  • Once the vehicle driver has completed his work, he must switch off the ignition before stepping off it and must always take the keys with him. He must also make very sure that the brakes are engaged as in the past some people have been seriously injured by run-away vehicles.

tractor plowing land

Maintenance of Farming Equipment

  • All farming equipment needs to be inspected regularly to ensure it is still in good working order.
  • Before inspection begins, vehicles or machines that are mobile should have the wheels blocked to prevent them from moving or rolling during the inspection.
  • Tyres need to be checked to see if they are flat or need to be inflated. Jacks and all inner mechanisms, such as springs, chains, spokes, etc. must be in good condition.
  • While it may save time and money to repair equipment oneself, doing so is not recommended. Contact the manufacturers or reliable technicians or mechanics to carry out repairs on farming equipment.

fixing tools


 Protective Gear

  • Farmers and machine operators should never wear loose-fitting clothing when driving vehicles or when operating farming equipment because clothes can become entangled in the machine. Once a shirtsleeve or pants are caught in the machine it is almost impossible to remove it without being injured.
  • Always wear specially designed protective clothing instead of everyday clothes to ensure safety.
  • Farmers or workers who operate machines that emit debris must also wear protective hard hats and goggles.
  • Safety shoes that have reinforced toe tips are a must for every farmer or worker.

Protective eye wear


Other Basic Safety Precautions

Training – Safety begins with proper training. All persons who will be driving vehicles or operating heavy and dangerous machinery must receive proper training. When people operate dangerous and heavy machinery without the necessary knowledge and training, their chances of being injured are increased.

Manuals – Farmers and machine operators must read machinery manuals from beginning to end before operating machinery. If the person who is tasked with operating the machinery is unable to read, all instructions and safety precautions must be explained clearly to him/her. It is important that all farming equipment, tools and machines should be used responsibly and for the purpose which is was designed for.

Illness, Fatigue and Substances – No person should ever drive farm vehicles or heavy machinery, or operate tools while they feel ill or fatigued.  Neither should they ever use any equipment while using medication that causes drowsiness, or while under the influence of substances such as alcohol or drugs.

Hazards – Vehicle drivers, machine operators and users of equipment should familiarise themselves with how to deal with hazards, such as electrical short-circuiting, accidentally severing wires and cords, and water or oil leakages. They must know not to smoke near some machines and equipment, as they can prove highly flammable, especially while refuelling machines, such as windrowers, cutters, tractors and other machinery that require diesel or petrol to operate. Most electrical appliances may not be operated near water and blockages should not be cleared while equipment is running.

Promoting Safety – It is advisable for machine operators to devise a “language” of hand signals to communicate with others when operating noisy machinery. People who are not involved in operating the farming equipment or tools should keep far away because they could be injured while watching others work seeing that they are distracted and unaware of flying debris, or they could even be in the way of a machine.  Temporary protective structures, such as shields, screens or nets should be installed in and around areas where machines will be operating to protect the farmer and workers from flying debris. Tractors and other machines may never be overloaded, as all machinery has specific uses and limits.