by Cammie Barden
Every tool requires some form of maintenance, and tractors are no different. There are a variety of parts that require a little TLC to keep the machine in top form. During these moments, certain guidelines should be followed to keep safe from injury or death.
Whenever maintenance must be performed, it is essential to engage the brakes, lower any attachments to the ground, and turn the engine off. If an attachment or the tractor must be raised, using body props to keep from being crushed is essential. If the engine must be turned on, ensure that the area is clear.
One of the most dangerous locations on a tractor is the power take off (PTO) shaft. This rotating piece of equipment will spin at, on average, 540 rpm. That is roughly nine times per second. The spin is so fast that the movement is barely noticeable with the naked eye.
The best way to remain safe around a PTO is to use a shield. These shields will cover the entire PTO and are commonly made of plastic. The shield will keep the PTO from catching on to anything. If a shield is not present, avoid wearing loose clothing and keeping the entire machine turned off is the next best thing.
A further option is employing the use of round stub shafts. These shafts can be a little hard to use and attach, but they lack protrusions that are frequently the cause of PTO fatality and injury. Always remember to inspect all aspects of the PTO daily, keeping it lubricated and well maintained.
Hydraulic lines also pose a risk. It is possible for a leak to appear in the line, reducing the pressure needed to lift or operate the machine or attachment. If a leak is suspected, it is recommended to use an object, such as a piece of cardboard, to locate the leak. When inspecting for leaks by hand, oil can be injected through the skin like a hypodermic needle — even through gloves. If this does occur, it is possible to not even feel the injury has happened or the injury will just feel like an insect bite, accompanied with a small puncture wound. After a varied amount of time, this area will become swollen, red and painful. The best thing to do is replace the hose.
Contact your doctor immediately if an injury is suspected to be caused by hydraulic oil. Ensure that you notify the physician of your suspicions, since this injury can be difficult to properly diagnose, and bring the MSDS sheet if you have one. Time is of upmost importance, as this injury could lead to gangrene, amputation, or death very quickly.
A final note of safety in the maintenance of tractors is to keep the machine clean and free of dirt, grime, and oil. This is to prevent a fire, which can take life and property. It is always a good idea to keep an AVC fire extinguisher on hand in case of such an emergency.
If there is an emergency, staying calm and contacting 911 are the first crucial steps. The 911 dispatcher will remain on the line until first responders have arrived and will give instructions. Speak with a clear and calm voice. The easier it is for the dispatcher to get the correct information the least amount of time will be needed for first responders to arrive with appropriate help.