Reproduced with permission from ACC

Power-take-off shafts

Unguarded machinery shafts have caused death and injury to many adults and children. SHAFTS ON ALL PTO-DRIVEN EQUIPMENT MUST BE GUARDED AT ALL TIMES. When not in use, the tractor stub shaft should be covered by both the guard and shield provided. The same applies to belts, chains, and sprockets.

Power-take-off Driven Implements

This is the means by which the power of the tractor engine is used to drive trailed or mounted rotating equipment (such as haybaler, rotary hoe, mower, spray pump, and so on).

Basic Rules when using PTO-driven equipment

  • When attaching PTO-powered implements, either three-point linkage mounted or trailed, the tractor engine should be shut down (stopped) while attaching the PTO shaft.
  • Walk around the tractor and the machine first to check that no one is likely to be hurt when the machine starts. Unwary children may be in a position unobserved by the driver.
  • Before engaging the PTO lever, ensure that there is no object in the path of the blades, flails or other moving parts of the machine to be used. Engage the PTO only from the tractor seat.
  • Many accidents involving the PTO have occurred around or near the homestead yard and buildings where tractors or machines were left unattended at meal times, and so on.
  • An operator should never adjust, service or lubricate a machine while either it or the tractor engine, is running.
  • At start-up', use a slow engine speed; increase speed after engagement of the PTO.
  • Before leaving the seat of the tractor, disengage the PTO lever and stop the machine completely.
  • Make sure you find out the correct PTO speed and corresponding tractor engine speed at which to run the implementation. Check the operator's manual.

Avoiding run-over

Tractors and machinery are major causes of accidental death and injuries in rural areas. Many of these accidents involve run-over situations or people being crushed by the tractor's moving parts. It is important to look out for children - particularly in the farmyard, around farm buildings, and along races. Children under five years are especially at risk.

  • Always ensure the area is clear of children and obstacles. Walk around the tractor and any implements before you start to move the machine.
  • Operate the controls from the tractor seat only. If anyone or anything gets caught in the tractor moving parts, you need to be in the seat so you can act immediately.
  • Before leaving the seat, make sure that the tractor is stationary and the handbrake is on.
  • When parking the tractor, even for a short time, always lower the front and rear hydraulics to the ground. Small children or domestic animals are seriously at risk if this simple precaution is not taken.

Research shows that one-third of on-farm fatalities between 1949 and 1983 involved children. Between 1986 and 1991, 47 children were killed on New Zealand farms. - an average of eight deaths a year (Houghton et al. 1994)

Sometimes in a bid to save time, farmers have tried to work from or re-mount a moving tractor. This is especially dangerous and has often caused severe injury or death when the operator has been caught under moving wheels.

Avoiding Overturns

Many tractor accidents occur on flat ground. Excessive speed is a common cause of tractor overturns.

To avoid overturns:

  • Reduce speed on rough terrain and on slopes.
  • Avoid sharp turns, especially with trailed implements. If one of the rear wheels connects with the drawbar or the implement, jack-knifing can occur, causing the tractor to upset or capsize.
  • Carry implements as low as practicable (front or rear mounted).
  • Keep the hitch-point as low as practicable. Using a low hitch-point can provide the same amount of traction while reducing the likelihood of a backward flip.
  • Select an appropriate gear before going up or down a slope.

When going downhill, a gear that is too high will provide insufficient engine braking - and a gear that is too low will increase the risk of losing traction. Changing gear going uphill increases the risk of the tractor flipping backward.

  • The lower the bucket or forks on a front-end loader, the lower the centre of gravity will be, making the tractor more stable.
  • For rear-mounted implements, the same principle applies. The added advantage is, that if the tractor does begin to tip backward while you're traveling uphill, the load will contact the ground early, making the tractor more stable.
  • Learn how to optimise traction.


  • Crush injuries or death can occur when contact is made with any moving part of a tractor and its implements. In operating any equipment mounted on tractor hydraulics (including front-end loaders) there are certain points that should be noted:

To avoid crush hazards:

  • Before leaving the seat, always check the hydraulic equipment is lowered to the ground. This should always be part of your "start-up" and "shut-down" (stopping) procedures when implements are attached to the tractor.
  • The hydraulic controls should be operated from the tractor seat only. Death has been caused many times by the operator leaning over from the rear while standing close to the hydraulic linkages.
    Tractor hydraulics are enormously powerful. If anyone or anything gets caught in the moving parts, the driver or operator needs to be in a position to act immediately.
  • If you are required to work under raised equipment of any sort (such as front-end loaders, hay elevators, and truck hoists), put mechanical support under it first. It isn't wise to rely on hydraulics or mechanical locks to protect you. Hoses have been known to burst, fittings have failed, and children have climbed onto the tractor and played with the controls, causing death.

It may seem needlessly time-consuming to have to climb back on the tractor to operate the height-control lever, but the driver's seat is the safest place from which to make height adjustments.