Working with Machinery

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Safe Stop – Handbrake on, controls in neutral, engine off and remove keys! 

Plan your jobs beforehand

Never remove or modify guards to  save time.

Only use a machine if you know how to use it safely and have received suitable training. Always read the manufacturer’s instructions

Machines have no brains so always use your own! A second of lost concentration can cost your life.

This picture clearly shows the wrong way to approach PTOs but it is an all too common site on our farms. In recent years, work-related fatalities in the UK’s farming industries have been disproportionate compared to the number of deaths in other industries.

Poorly used or faulty vehicles and machinery are a major cause of death and serious injury on our farms. Over the past five years, 10% of all fatal injuries in farming were as a result of contact with machinery according to the HSE annual workplace fatality statistics 2016/2017. Farmers come into contact with a variety of  machinery on a daily basis, each of which  bring their own attendant dangers. Hands, hair and clothing can be caught by unguarded PTO shafts or other unguarded moving parts such as pulleys and belts. People can be injured by front-end loaders, falling from a moving tractor or being struck by its wheels.

Machinery and transport continue to be the main causes of life changing and life ending injuries on farms. Over the past year, there has been some improvement in the numbers of farmers losing their lives as a result of machinery and transport, but the fact is that one death is one too many. Initiatives such as Farm Safety Week, the Farm Safety Foundation’s farm safety training at colleges and with Young Farmers Clubs and the recent Devon Young Farmers Club’s ‘Growing Safer Farmers’ campaign demonstrate that agriculture is an industry who agree that enough is enough and want to make a change.


Ensure PTO guards/shields and restraining chains are in place

Never use PTO powered equipment that has missing or damaged guards or missing chains. Get them repaired or replaced and be aware that defective PTO shafts can disconnect from the machinery they are attached to. If so, they may swing and/or break off, striking anyone within range.

Is the PTO guard the correct size and length for shaft?

Badly fitting guards can be as dangerous as no guard at all. Take into account the shafts vertical and lateral movements during work. The rotating shafts must be totally enclosed by the guard. Important: Always refer to the manufacturer’s fitting, operating and maintenance instructions.

Have the sliding inner and outer surface of the guard and the spring-loaded plunger of the quick release yoke been regularly cleaned and greased?

Ensure that other guards are in place and secured to prevent access to other dangerous parts of the machine, such as rotating shafts, chain and sprocket or belt and pulley drives.

Before starting the task STOP and THINK…

  • Are you authorised and familiar with the safe operation of the machine and the PTO  between the tractor and machine?
  • Have you remembered to SAFE STOP if you need to check the equipment, carry out maintenance work or clear blockages?


    • Fully apply the handbrake
    • Put all controls in neutral
    • Stop the engine
    • Remove the key from the ignition
  • Are you using the right shaft and engine speed?
    • If a machine is used in excess of its design speed it will come under too much stress and it could disintegrate. This can be caused by using the wrong shaft speed or too high an engine speed when using an adaptor.
  • Have you carried out pre-start inspections?


  • Ensure the PTO shaft and its guard is supported when it is not connected to the tractor. Do not rest PTO shafts and guards on draw bars and do not let them drop on the ground.
  • Never step across a rotating power shaft. Always walk around the machine
  • Ensure close fitting clothing is worn. Remove scarves, jewellery, hoody strings and any headphone wires.  Tie long hair back or keep it under a cap.
  • Check that no one is in danger before engaging the PTO drive.
  • Keep children away from PTOs and all operational machinery.
  • Discuss the risks regularly with the whole team, and train everyone in safe working methods, and emergency procedures.
  • Make sure operators are trained, machinery maintained, windows clean and mirrors intact and correctly adjusted, and the workplace is organised so that pedestrians and vehicles can move around without risk of coming into contact with each other. Safe driver, Safe vehicle, Safe Site
  • Make sure everyone carries a mobile phone with them and have the relevant emergency information and emergency contact numbers programmed into them.

Keep the mobile phone with you – don’t leave it in the tractor cab.

Want to know more?

dan parrWorking with Machinery