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Tractor safety programs help save lives

In spite of safety precautions, almost 800 tractor-related deaths occur every year in the United States, according to a source from February 2016. Many tractor accidents are preventable with training so the Tractor Operator Programs have been developed for young people help avoid these tragedies. This opportunity gives these future farmers the option to learn about tractors and other agricultural implements, and how to properly use them. St. Joseph County (MI) sponsored one of these programs.
The Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) has acquired the “Gearing Up for Safety- Production Agriculture Safety Training” which is the basis of the program. Within a three weekend time frame, the participants will be taught through a workbook with twelve chapters of information. The tractor safety information was collected and organized by Purdue University and is used across the nation.
Chapter one presents an overview of general farm and ranch safety. The various hazards of working on a farm are discussed as well as characteristics to watch for and avoid while working with large machinery and dangerous equipment.
The students move on to chapter two where they learn about the basic tractor components. These include primary controls, control panel instruments, various warning systems and symbols, safety features and hand signals.
Procedures an operator goes through before they start the tractor is the feature topic for chapter three.
The guide stresses the importance of an operator manual along with encouraging the use of seat belts. The use of ROPS, or Roll Over Protective Structures, is described and explained.
The main focus for many of the students is brought up in chapter four with tractor operation basics. While starting the engine, being careful around the PTO, and operating the transmission and clutch are commonly known, these subjects are covered in detail during the class.
The tractor is not the only large piece of machinery that requires care while operating; tractor-powered implements can present the same types of dangers as the main units. In chapter five, technology advances and safety improvements are discussed along with hitching and attaching the various pieces of equipment.
Combines, sprayers and skid-steer loaders are in the spotlight in chapter six. Safety features and hazards connected to the units are shared with special notes on fire classifications and the causes of those fires.
Chapter seven discusses the driving of tractors and other self-propelled agricultural equipment on public roadways. Legal requirements for operating large equipment are presented along with the hazards of driving on the roads and transporting riders in the truck beds.
Driving the tractor is the fun part but maintenance is an important job of the operator and the subject of chapter eight. A list of necessities for safely working on the tractor is included with a note on hand and power tools. The workbook also demonstrates proper lifting of heavy items.
ATVs are a popular and useful vehicle on many farms and they are the feature of the ninth chapter. Again, the students are encouraged to use caution when operating, riding and inspecting. Utility vehicles are discussed within the chapter as well.
The tenth chapter focuses on hazards found on farms and ranches. Animals, woodlots, power tools, confined spaces, chemicals, fuel fires and environmental hazards are all covered in the chapter.
The final chapter covers emergencies and first aid. Descriptions of information to share with dispatch, what to do while waiting for help and how to control bleeding are shared. Various situations are explained and the students are walked through the process of dealing with these types of situations.
As with any quality program, the students practice hands-on exercises after classroom time.
Some 4-H programs take the training a step further and have created clubs for the young people to join. Elkhart County (IN) has two different groups that meet with one focusing on farm tractors and the other will favor the garden ones. They also offer a tractor project for the Mini 4-H program.
These trainings provide the young people with the certifications to legally operate the farm machinery.