National Safety Month:Tractor safety checklist

Created: 6/17/15 (Wed) | Topic: Education

Observed annually in June, National Safety Month focuses attention on reducing the leading causes of injury and death at work, on the road and in our homes and communities.

To recognize National Safety Month, North Dakota Farm Bureau is presenting a Wednesday article that focuses on ways we can make every aspect of our work and home lives safer for all.

Safe to operate: Tractor safety checklist

Accident prevention must be a top priority on farms today, especially when operating machinery like farm tractors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 750 farm workers are accidentally killed each year, and more than half of these fatalities are tractor related.1

“I cannot emphasize enough the importance of staying alert and following your equipment manufacturer’s guidelines for safe operation,” says Dan Danford, Case IH PR & Sponsorships Manager. “Case IH agricultural equipment is designed and built with safety in mind, but in the end it’s up to the operator to ensure the equipment is in good condition and utilized safely.”

Danford and his teammates at Case IH strive to prevent accidents and injuries related to tractor use. “Our goal is zero on-farm fatalities. We can reach this goal by working together to ensure safe practices.”

What measures do you take to ensure your tractors and other equipment are safe to operate? Take control of your own safety by performing regular tractor inspections. The following tractor safety checklist, provided by the AgriLife Extension of the Texas A&M System, can help you determine whether your tractor is in proper condition for operation.

1. Roll-over Protection Structure (ROPS). Is the tractor equipped with a ROPS in good condition?
Tractor rollovers are the single deadliest type of injury incident on farms in the United States.2 Even veteran drivers are at risk of rollovers: experienced operators are involved in 80% of all tractor rollovers, according to Penn State Extension.2

Fortunately, the use of ROPS and a seat belt is estimated to be 99% effective in preventing death or serious injury in the event of a tractor rollover.2 Protect yourself and your workers by ensuring your ROPS is in good condition. It should be replaced if the tractor has rolled over or if the ROPS has more than minor damage.

2. Guards/Shields. Are guards and shields including the master Power Take-Off (PTO) shield in place and securely fastened?
Repair or replace loose, broken, or missing shields before operating the tractor. If missing guards or shields expose an operating PTO, operators are at risk for entanglement around the spinning shaft.

3. Seat safety switch. Is the seat safety switch connected and functional to prevent the tractor from being “jumped started” from the ground?
These safety devices require the tractor operator to be sitting in the seat before the tractor will start, thus preventing tractor run-over accidents. Tractor run-overs are the second most frequent cause of tractor-related deaths on farms.

4. Brake system. Are the brakes properly adjusted and the fluid level correct?
Poorly maintained and maladjusted brakes prohibit safe driving up and down hills, on curved paths, and on public roadways. Make sure left and right brakes can be locked together during high-speed highway travel.

5. Tire pressure. Is the air pressure in each tire appropriate according to the tire manufacturer’s recommendations?
Inflation requirements can be located on the outside of the tire around the rim or in the tractor’s operator manual. Also, check the tires for major cuts and cracks.

6. Lights/signals. Are all headlights, flashers, and brake lights working correctly, clean, and visible to other drivers?
Farm tractors are required to have two forward facing headlights and a red taillight that burns continuously. This taillight must be visible from 500 feet under normal conditions and mounted on the far left side of the tractor.

7. Hydraulic system. Are all hydraulic hoses and connections free from leaks and hydraulic levels correct?
Be sure to check front-end loader and three-point hitch hydraulic systems under load situations. Failure to detect hydraulic leaks can result in serious injuries to operators and bystanders when front-end loaders and implements lose energy and fall.

8. Steering system. Does the tractor steer and react properly when negotiating turns and roading? Is the steering fluid level correct?
Tractors that have a tendency to pull to the left or right are more susceptible to accidents while roading. Poor steering may also signal uneven tire pressure, tire damage, and/or problems with the brake system.

9. Slow Moving Vehicle (SMV) emblem. Does the tractor have a clean SMV emblem located at the rear of the tractor visible by other drivers?
Maintain SVM emblems. Exposure to sunlight causes the reflective material to fade, reducing its effectiveness.

10. Cleanliness. Are the steps and cab area free from mud, dirt, ice, oil, or any other combustible object or fluid?
Excessive mud, dirt and ice will reduce traction on mounting steps, potentially causing the operator to fall from the tractor. Spilled fuel, oil and grease can cause poor traction in the operator’s station and pose a substantial fire hazard.

11. Fire extinguisher. Is the tractor equipped with at least one 10-pound fire extinguisher securely fastened inside the cab or operator’s station?
Optimally, two fire extinguishers should be mounted: one fastened inside the cab or operator’s station, and one mounted so that it may be accessed from the ground. Invert the extinguishers once or twice a season, and shake them to ensure that powder inside the extinguisher hasn't compacted with tractor vibration over time.

12. First aid kit. Is the tractor equipped with a first aid kit securely fastened inside the cab or operator’s station?
At a minimum, kits should include an assortment of bandages, gauze, antiseptics, disposable rubber gloves (various sizes), and empty plastic bags of various sizes.

North Dakota Farm Bureau members save $500 per unit on Case IH Maxxum®  tractors, Farmall® C and U series utility and 100A series tractors, self-propelled windrowers and large square balers. A $300 per unit incentive is available for Case IH compact Farmall® B and C series tractors, Case IH Scout® utility vehicles and other hay tools, including round balers, small square balers, disc mower conditioners and sickle mower conditioners. Combine the Farm Bureau incentive with other discounts, promotions, rebates, or offers that may be available from Case IH or a Case IH dealer. Case IH and your Farm Bureau are working together to make your off-road experience both safe and economical.


1. Smith, David W. “Is Your Tractor Safe?” Extension Safety Program, Texas A&M System.

2. Buckmaster, Dennis R.; Murphy, Dennis J. “Rollover Protection for Farm Tractor Operators.” Penn State Extension. July, 2014.


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