Operating large machinery has never been my strong suit. I am accident prone, not the least bit mechanically inclined, and to be quite frank, not the greatest operator. My family in Townsend and my old bosses could attest (sorry Jim and Jess). So, I am writing this article for all the people like me who should take extra care when driving tractors; who need the constant reminder to slow down; the reminder to take off those dang spurs; and when in doubt, shove the tractor in neutral and hit the brakes.

Mid-June and early July marks the beginning of haying season on Montana’s farms and ranches. It is extremely busy, where 18-hour days are not uncommon, and hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment is being used all over the ranch. In 2019, farms and ranches were the most fatal occupational location in Montana with the majority of those fatalities involving a tractor, pickup, or four-wheeler. This is the time of year we see an increase in machine related accidents and injuries, so share this article with everyone working on your farm or ranch.

Maintaining equipment is crucial for safe operation. Ensuring tractors, balers, rakes, swathers, and other equipment is in good condition can alleviate a lot of stress and lost time. By preventing breakdowns, you can ensure more time to operate safely and efficiently, versus rushing and trying to beat the rain (Lord willing we get some).
  • Check and replace broken and worn parts
  • Grease all moving components
  • Shields and guards are there for your safety; replace broken ones and put them back on after removing
When operating haying equipment, it’s important to recognize the risks involved with haying. These include being run over, entanglement with the power take-off (PTO), and serious cuts or lacerations from sharp components. As owners or managers, be sure to train employees and family members how to operate equipment properly, discuss the hazards, and follow the safety tips below:
  • Ensure PTOs and hydraulic equipment is stopped and isolated before working on or around the machinery.
  • Keep clear and out of the path of running equipment.
  • Maintain a proper setting and speed, and only travel at a speed that the equipment can handle.
  • Never try to unplug a baler until the tractor is completely shut off and the PTO is disengaged.
  • Be sure every tractor has a charged fire extinguisher and first aid kit.
  • Always supervise inexperienced operators.
  • If you get out of the tractor or machinery to fix something, take the keys with you to prevent someone starting the equipment when you’re under it.
Stacking and storing hay presents its own set of unique dangers. These include falling from elevation, being crushed by falling bales or suspended loads, and contact with machinery in operation. Reduce the chance of an accident occurring by following these safety guidelines:
  • Keep foot traffic out of the loading/unloading/stacking zone.
  • Keep stacks straight, if they begin to lean, unstack and start again.
  • Use equipment that is large and powerful enough to handle the bales.
  • When working on top of stacks, remain clear of edges and ensure a safe method to access the top of the stack.
  • Never stand underneath a suspended load.
Minimizing risks, reducing costs, and increasing profits are staples in the agriculture industry. However, many do not realize that increasing safety is a key aspect in reducing costs and minimizing risks. By cultivating a culture of safety on your farm or ranch you can minimize lost time from injuries, reduce your liability, and most importantly keep yourself, your family, and your employees from being injured or killed. For more information visit www.mtagrisafety.com or contact Austin Grazier (406) 587-3153.