Machinery and Equipment Safety

Person riding ATV

What are some common injuries related to farm equipment and machinery? 

Farm equipment accidents are the leading cause of fatalities and injuries in agriculture, with tractor and ATV crashes (primarily rollovers) as the top two most frequently cited causes. Others include being run over or crushed by equipment, accidents on the roadway, and accidents involving the moving parts of a machine.

How can employers reduce the risk of injuries related to operating farm equipment?

Employers can reduce the risk of injuries by:

  1. Elimination and Substitution (physically removing or replacing the hazard): 
    • While the most effective method for reducing hazards, elimination and substitution also tend to be the most difficult to implement for an existing machine, because replacing a machine can be costly and adhering to new regulations can be time-consuming. An example of hazard elimination is when manufacturers stopped producing three-wheel ATVs in 1987 due to safety concerns.  
  2. Engineering Controls (isolate people from the hazard): 
    • Well-designed engineering controls can be highly effective in protecting workers and are not typically dependent on worker actions to provide protection. The initial cost of engineering controls can be higher than the cost of administrative controls or personal protective equipment (PPE), but in the long term, operating costs are frequently lower, and in some instances, can provide a cost savings in other areas of the process.
    • One example of an engineering control for agricultural machines is the Rollover Protective Structure (ROPS) for tractors. In 1976, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a  requiring ROPS for agricultural tractors. The standard also includes requirements for providing instructions to employees who operate these tractors.
  3. Administrative Controls and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):
    • Administrative controls and PPE are frequently used with existing processes where hazards are not particularly well controlled. These programs may be relatively inexpensive to establish but can be very costly to sustain and have also proven to be less effective than other measures. For example, PPE for riding an ATV could include a helmet, goggles, gloves, closed-toe shoes, a long-sleeved shirt, and long pants, while administrative controls for ATV use include the rules and guidelines for operating an ATV safely. PPE can reduce the severity of ATV-related crashes. Based on OSHA recommendations, employers should provide head and face protection and protective clothing and ensure that ATV operators always wear proper PPE. 

What topics are covered in WCAHS farm machinery safety trainings?

Our trainings are tailored to the needs and priorities of our audiences, including farmers/supervisors, safety officers, equipment operators, and farmworkers. Trainings can be delivered in an office or field setting.

Topics include:

  • Common injuries/risks
  • Best practices to avoid injury when operating:
    • Tractors
    • ATVs
    • Nut harvesters
    • Planters, Cultivators, Sprayers, Combines, and Harvesters

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