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A Step by step Guide to Using Tractors Safely

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Safety work on driving tractor, this step by step guide is essential to provide safe at work and accidental awareness
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Health and Safety

Tractor action
A step-by-step guide to using tractors safely
This step-by-step guide to tractor safety is for everyone who uses a tractor,
Health and Safety

or tractor-operated machinery. It applies to those working in farming, forestry,
Tractor action
A step-by-step guide to using tractors safely
horticulture, amenity horticulture and the sports turf industry.
Whether you are a student, a regular tractor driver, or an employer, you need to learn
about tractor safety before it is too late.
On average ten people a year die in tractor accidents and there are many major
injuries, including amputations and fractures. There are many more accidents which
HSE never hears about. Simple but essential safety steps would have prevented
most of them.
This leaflet shows how training in tractor safety could save your life.
This is a web-friendly version
of leaflet INDG185(rev2),
revised 10/09
Step 1 Before starting
Before you start a tractor, you must know the basic safety procedures. These are
safety checks and safe stop.
Safety checks
■ Am I wearing suitable clothing and footwear?
■ Have I read and understood the instruction manual?
■ How am I going to do this work?
■ Have I carried out pre-start checks of the machinery?
■ Do I know enough to work safely?
Safe stop
Safe Stop iS:
Handbrake on
■ Make sure the handbrake is fully applied.
■ Make sure all controls and equipment are left safe.
■ Stop the engine.
■ Remove the key.
Always use safe stop:
engine and
■ before leaving your seat; or
remove key
■ when anyone else approaches; or
■ when anyone else is working on the machine.
You need to take extra precautions when safe stop is not possible, for example
when using slurry tankers or external controls.
1 of 13 pages

Health and Safety

Key points
■ Never use a machine unless you are trained and know how to use it safely.
■ Never use a machine unless it is properly maintained.
■ Keep away from moving machinery – remember that some machine components
will continue to rotate or move even after the engine has stopped.
■ Wear footwear with a good grip – safety boots are best.
■ Wear clothes which will not snag on machinery – preferably overalls.
■ Keep long hair tied back.
■ Remove any jewel ery which might snag – don’t forget watches and rings.
■ Find and read the operator’s manual – keep it handy.
this accident could happen to you . . .
An employee was teaching a casual worker how to drive a tractor during cabbage
harvesting. The casual worker had very little experience of driving tractors, and was
having difficulty engaging the gears. The instructor became impatient, reached into
the cab and, while standing alongside the tractor, moved the gear lever. The tractor
lurched forward, crushing the instructor beneath the dual wheels
Training is essential. Never rush it, or leave it until the last minute.
It is the most important safety action of all and many lives could have been saved
by using it.
Step 2 in position
A tractor can only be safely operated from the driving seat. You must know how
to get in and get out safely, how to adjust seats and mirrors and how to recognise
controls so you are always in control of your tractor.
Some tractors have controls mounted externally to aid hitching (normally on the rear
mudguard) – you will need to take different precautions when operating these.
Key points
Getting in and out
■ Always use access steps and handholds. Don’t jump from the cab.
■ Use the nearside cab door whenever you can.
■ Keep floors, doors, pedals and your boots clean and mud-free.
■ Do not keep tools, drawbar pins or top links on the cab floor.
■ Before leaving the seat follow safe stop.
■ Get out facing inwards so that you have a good grip.
■ Never get on or off a moving tractor.
Visibility and seat adjustment
■ Before carrying out adjustments ensure the tractor is in safe stop.
■ Check the seat position – can you operate all controls comfortably?
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Health and Safety

■ Adjust the seat suspension to your weight.
■ Make sure mirrors are properly adjusted. When wearing a seat belt, double-
check that you can still see clearly.
■ Make sure mirrors and windows are clean and give full visibility.
Seat belts
■ Seat belts are a legal requirement on all tractors where there is a risk of
overturning and it is reasonably practicable to fit one.
■ A seat belt will prevent you being thrown out of the cab in an overturn or road
accident, where you are most likely to be killed or injured.
■ Wear a seat belt when driving on slopes, silage clamps, working on ditch sides
and when on public roads.
■ Look in the operator’s manual to find out what each control does.
■ Make sure you know how the controls are operated.
■ Never use any control unless you are correctly seated in the cab.
■ Know where the controls should be before you start the tractor.
■ Don’t forget that different tractors have different controls.
■ Never use a machine that you have not been taught how to use.
External controls
■ Look in the operator’s manual to find out where to stand when using external
■ Only use external controls to hitch equipment in accordance with the operator’s
Do not place any part of your body in between the tractor and any mounted
implement when operating these controls.
this accident could happen to you . . .
The driver of a tractor and loaded grain trailer broke his ribs after being trapped
beneath a wheel. He had been standing alongside the tractor to start the
engine so that he could tip the trailer. He then reached in to operate the tip
control. The handbrake was not ful y on and as the grain started to come out
of the trailer, the tractor moved forward, trapping him beneath the wheel
Only start a tractor from the seat. Only operate controls from the correct
Step 3 Under power
This step is about getting the engine started and making sure it is safe to get on.
This is the time to check the brakes, the steering and other controls. Also check
that no one else is in danger from your tractor.
Key points
■ Never drive a tractor or other machinery unless you have been trained to do so.
■ Make sure you understand the controls before you operate the tractor.
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Health and Safety

■ Before moving off, always check whether independent brakes are locked
together. They should always be locked together for road and transport use.
■ Make sure no one else is near before you start the engine.
■ Check that no one is in danger before you move.
■ Check that the brakes and steering operate correctly.
■ Make sure you know what each control does.
this accident could happen to you . . .
A tractor and potato harvester were being used to harvest early potatoes. Casual
workers were employed to work on the harvester. At the end of each row, one of the
workers would climb off to pick up fal en potatoes while the harvester turned. As the
worker was about to climb back on the harvester, the driver moved forwards without
warning, and without checking behind him. The tractor had mirrors, but these were
folded against the cab window. The worker was knocked to the ground and crushed
to death by the harvester
Check for danger every time you start.
Step 4 Driving
This is not the last step. A safe tractor operator needs many more skil s than the
steps listed so far. You need to be a competent driver before you can operate
tractors and other machinery safely.
Above all, watch out for other people and keep your speed down.
Key points
■ Don’t drive tractors unless they are properly maintained and safe. Fix or report
defects as soon as possible.
■ Take your time and never rush when operating tractors.
■ Watch out for obstacles and blind spots.
■ Take care with projections such as bale spikes. Remove them or carry them in a
safe position both on and off the road.
■ Comply with warning signs.
■ Remember, other people and children may be around, even if you’re not
expecting them.
■ Equipment, loads, bad weather or bright sunshine make it harder to see, so take
■ Get help if visibility is reduced, especially when reversing.
■ When reversing, use mirrors and horns and any other reversing aids fitted to the
■ Remember that confined or dark buildings and small farmyards make spotting and
avoiding dangers difficult.
■ Agree safe routes for other tractors and machines to avoid accidents.
■ Watch for rear-end swing when travelling with long implements such as ploughs.
Tractor action
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Health and Safety

this accident could happen to you . . .
A man was using a tractor without a cab to clear out a poultry shed. Although the
roof height in the building was not a problem, one of the doorways was very low. The
tractor had a folding roll bar so it could pass through the doorway. The driver forgot
to lower the frame and drove through the doorway. The tractor knocked out the lintel
which fell onto the driver and crushed his back.

Always take care when driving.
Step 5 other people
Every time you use a tractor, look out for other people, wherever you are, as other
workers are often nearby. Always keep a look out for children.
Key points
If you are an operator:
■ Check for bystanders before starting tractors or machines.
■ Check where assistants are working and make sure you can see them.
■ Agree a way to work safely and make sure everyone follows it.
■ Communicate clearly and make sure instructions can be heard and understood.
■ Only carry someone else if a proper passenger seat is fitted.
■ Use the horn to warn assistants that you are going to start.
If you are helping a tractor operator:
■ Agree a way to work safely – and fol ow it.
■ If you are using hand signals, agree their meaning beforehand.
■ Make sure the tractor operator can see you.
■ Never stand in the line of travel of a tractor or machine.
■ Find out the safe places to work or stand when near machines.
■ Listen to and follow instructions.
Do not operate any external controls unless you have been instructed to do so.
If children could be present:
■ Never allow them to ride on a tractor – remember it is illegal to have a child
under 13 years old as a passenger.
■ Keep them away from working tractors.
■ Always use safe stop.
■ Always be aware of places where children may be.
If you see any children, stop work and make sure they move to a safe place.
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Health and Safety

this accident could happen to you . . .
A tractor driver was travelling along a road with a trailer. He was carrying a
passenger who decided to travel on the drawbar of the trailer. He lost his balance
and fell from the drawbar. The driver could not stop in time and the trailer wheels
ran over his passenger. He died from severe head injuries.
Never carry a passenger on a drawbar or on the back of a tractor. Only carry a
passenger in the cab if a seat has been provided for them.
Step 6 Hitching
Accidents are common when hitching or unhitching tractor-mounted machines. To
prevent these accidents, remember:
1 Safe stop.
2 Operate controls from the correct position.
3 Never forget your assistants are also at risk.
Key points
■ Make sure you use the right hitch system.
■ Only use controls from the operating position.
■ Take extra care when using external controls.
■ Never stand between the tractor and other machines, or behind them unless the
tractor is stationary and the driver is aware of your presence.
■ Never stand with your feet under, on or near drawbars.
■ Ensure that jacks, skids and other supports are used and maintained.
■ Communicate clearly if you get help with hitching.
this accident could happen to you . . .
A tractor driver was crushed to death while taking a fertiliser spinner off a tractor. He
had not left the spinner high enough to place pallets beneath the machine to support
it at the right height. He climbed onto the lower link arm and reached through the cab
window to operate the lift control. The empty spinner lifted quickly, and trapped him
between the machine and the tractor.

Only use controls from the operating position.
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Health and Safety

Step 7 other machines and trailers
Unguarded power take-off (PTO) shafts, machine blockages and maintenance
activities cause many serious injuries.
Correct guarding is essential and you must remember safe stop – this is the most
important step to make sure you can operate other machinery safely.
Key points
PTO shafts
■ Follow safe stop whenever possible – it makes sure nothing will move.
■ Take extra care when using a PTO-driven machine, eg a slurry tanker, in a
stationary position.
■ Ensure guards are in place – check they are properly chained, lubricated and
free from defects.
■ Report any faults immediately.
■ Do not use a machine with a damaged PTO shaft guard.
■ Ensure the tractor is chocked or that there is a mechanical connection between
the tractor and a stationary PTO-driven machine to ensure the tractor or
machine does not move, causing the PTO shaft to separate.
■ Using tractors and trailers without an adequate braking system has led to loss of
control, jackknifing and tractor-overturning incidents.
■ Tractors and trailers used on or off the road need to stop safely within a reasonable
distance under all conditions.
■ Inadequate trailer brakes can lead to accidents when manoeuvring on slopes
or slippery surfaces, as the tractor may be pushed sideways and slide out of
■ If trailer brakes are inadequate (ie are not doing their share of the braking) the
tractor braking system can be subjected to excessive wear.
■ Safe towing requires the use of a large enough tractor and selecting the most
suitable gear to stop the combination within a safe distance.
■ Make sure you buy trailers that have a suitable braking system to match your
tractor and ask the supplier for brake efficiency information.
■ Failsafe trailer braking provides emergency brakes if the tractor stalls.
Maintaining trailer brakes
■ Properly maintain and adjust braking systems for tractor-trailer combinations
to ensure efficiency and safety. Testing on the move may be necessary after
■ Keep hydraulic brake couplings clean and avoid contamination.
■ Make sure linkages are properly lubricated and operate freely and keep them
■ After use clean mud and contamination from brakes (including parking brakes).
Make sure the cleaning method does not lead to deterioration of the brakes (eg
rusting caused by pressure washing).
■ Tractors which are not fitted with a self-balancing braking system require more
frequent checks to ensure the brakes are evenly balanced.
■ Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for frequency and detail of
■ Some older brake linings may contain asbestos. Take appropriate precautions to
avoid breathing dust and when disposing of waste material.
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Health and Safety

Other machinery
■ Check the machine is properly guarded and the guards have no defects.
■ Check the machine for defects.
■ Check the brakes are connected.
■ Make sure you are trained and competent to use the machine.
■ Always use safe stop.
■ Don’t use the machine unless it is properly maintained.
■ Always lower machines to a safe position before leaving the seat.
this accident could happen to you . . .
A tractor driver was picking up silage with a trailed forage harvester when it
became blocked. He got off the machine to try and clear the blockage. He did
not stop the engine or the PTO drive. As he removed a guard the rotor hit his
arm and ripped it off. He died from loss of blood.

Always follow safe stop before clearing a blockage.
Step 8 overhead power lines
Overhead power lines exist on many farms. This step is about dealing with the
dangers they present.
Key points
Overhead power lines
■ Contact with any overhead power line can kill, so plan to avoid work near them
if possible.
■ Be aware of minimum line heights and get them checked by your distribution
network operator if you have doubts about their height.
■ Find out ways of reducing the risk of contact with overhead power lines (see
INDG389 Shock horror).
■ Check that lines are marked on the farm map and pass on this information to
contractors and other visitors that need to know where the lines are.
■ Be aware of the height and reach of machinery you buy and operate.
■ Use alternative access points and routes to avoid the lines.
■ Look out for warning signs, barriers, posts and warning tapes.
■ Always use safe tipping areas.
this accident could happen to you . . .
A tractor driver was electrocuted after his tipping trailer touched an 11 000 volt
overhead power line. He had been carting manure to a heap which was near
the power line. He tipped the trailer and pulled forward to empty the load. The
6.75 m trailer touched the 6.5 m high power line. He was electrocuted when he
got out of the tractor.

Keep clamps, manure heaps and bale stacks away from power lines.
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Health and Safety

Step 9 overturning
A tractor can overturn anywhere – on silage clamps, near field drains and even on the flat.
Most overturns happen on slopes. You must know and recognise the dangers of slopes.
Accidents happen because drivers misjudge slopes, ignore changing ground
conditions and forget the effect of loads on stability – do not drive on slopes until
you are properly trained.
Key points
■ Remember, overturning can happen on flat ground as well as on slopes.
■ Remember, although a tractor can be driven up a slope with a hard surface, it
cannot necessarily come down the same slope safely.
■ Always couple and use trailer and trailed equipment brakes.
■ Use seat belts if they are fitted. If they are not, get them fitted. You are at risk
even if you have a cab.
■ Make sure a safety cab is fitted – or a roll frame on older tractors (in which case
a seat belt must be fitted and used).
■ If in doubt, walk the ground before driving over it to check for hollows, hidden
logs, tree stumps, rock outcrops, rabbit holes etc.
Get yourself trained in slope safety.
A safe working system
■ Always plan work in advance so that the work methods are safe at all stages.
■ Drive slowly where the ground surface is not easily seen, eg in long grass, bracken etc.
■ Ensure you use a large enough tractor for the machine or trailer you are using,
taking account of the weight of the machine, trailer and any load.
Driving across and turning on slopes
■ Always descend straight down the gentlest possible gradient of a slope, rather than
driving diagonally across it.
■ Avoid working across slopes if your tractor has large diameter, tubeless, low-ground-
pressure tyres.
■ Avoid turning down a slope – this is especially hazardous.
■ Plan work across slopes so that turns are made uphill rather than downhill.
■ Use the widest practicable wheel track setting to reduce the likelihood of the tractor
Turning with rear-mounted equipment on a slope
■ Add enough front ballast to counterbalance rear-mounted equipment,
particularly when working on slopes. But remember, using such ballast may
reduce safety when travelling downhill.
■ Remember when using rear-mounted fertiliser spreaders or sprayers, the tractor
rear-wheel grip reduces as the load is discharged.
■ Remember the steady weight reduction reduces traction and increases the possibility
of sliding, especially when coming down the slope.
■ The higher the mounted equipment is on the tractor’s rear linkage, the less stable the
tractor becomes. Keep mounted equipment as low as possible (within the constraints
of effective use).
■ Select the correct gear for the ground conditions and turn slowly, so that the
tractor is under complete control during the manoeuvre.
■ Do not turn downhill on a slope.
■ Use a three-point turn on sharp corners.
■ Take extra care with offset-mounted machines. Turn slowly with the offset load on the up-
slope side whenever possible.
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Health and Safety

Tractor with raised load on the front end
■ Ensure enough ballast weight is fitted to the rear.
■ Make sure the loader is not overloaded (consult the manufacturer’s handbook).
■ Whenever possible lower the loader for travel.
■ Do not drive at speed, make abrupt turns, or suddenly stop with the loader raised.
■ Plan fore-end loader work to minimise travel with the loader raised.
this accident could happen to you . . .
A farmer was spreading fertiliser with a mounted distributor on fairly steep land that
he was familiar with. He was travelling uphill when the tractor overturned rearwards
and he was thrown from the cab and crushed. The tractor had been fitted with dual
wheels to prevent sideways overturn, but had no bal ast on the front which would have
reduced the risk of rearwards overturn when travelling uphill.
Make sure you use ballast to provide traction and stability where necessary and are
aware of the effects of changes in weight distribution.
Rearward overturns
■ A tractor with its rear wheels turning at only 2 mph will be vertical in 1 second if the
object it is pulling resists movement. An inexperienced driver may need as much as
1.5 seconds to decide on and carry out remedial action.
Vertical jackknifing of tractor and trailer combination
■ Ensure trailers are not overloaded and the load is evenly distributed.
■ When tipping take care to ensure the load slides freely from the trailer.
■ Adding rear ballast (eg wheel weights or water ballast) will increase the stability
of the tractor.
■ Pick-up hitch hooks and trailer eyes should be free from wear that may result in
unhitching, especially when tipping.
Hitching chains or tow ropes
■ Always hitch as low as possible.
■ Never hitch above the axle.
■ A chain or towrope hitched too high could cause rearward overturn of the
towing tractor even on level ground.
Freeing a bogged-down tractor
■ If the tractor becomes bogged down, try to reverse out. If this fails you will need help.
■ Never chain the wheels or jam them with blocks of wood. They may be forced
into the ground and the tractor may overturn rearwards.
Winching with tractor-mounted winches
To avoid overturning the tractor during winching, always see that it is set straight in
line with the pull.
Clutch use
■ Select the correct gear at the beginning of the slope, so there is no need to
change gear on the slope.
■ Engage four-wheel drive (if available) before working on slopes.
■ Suddenly engaging the clutch can cause a rearward overturn.
■ Let the clutch in slowly and avoid snatching. This is particularly important when
driving up slopes.
■ Keep the pedals, footwear and tractor floor/footplates as dry and free from mud
as possible.
Tractor action
10 of 13 pages

A Step by step Guide to Using Tractors Safely



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