Prevent injuries this harvest season: Be aware of common equipment hazards

As we progress through harvest season, consider the hazards associated with agricultural equipment.  Today’s agricultural equipment is powerful, very efficient and versatile in how it can be used. During harvest season a variety of equipment will be used both in the field and at the grain storage facility. In some instances farmers can find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, and in a situation to be seriously injured by the equipment they are operating or working around.

Injuries from equipment can occur from some of the following reasons:

• Working on or around moving equipment

• Caught in or between equipment

• Working on equipment with stored energy (Example: Hydraulic cylinder)

•Inadequate guarding on equipment or guards have been removed exposing moving parts

• Incorrect hitching practices

• Not being visible to the equipment operator

• Unaware of approaching danger in the work environment.

Agricultural equipment share many of the same hazards that can seriously injury someone if the hazards are not recognized. There are eight identifiable farm equipment hazards that should be taken into account when operating or working with equipment.

Wrap Points: Any exposed equipment component that rotates at high speed or with a high degree of torque.  Injuries occur because of entanglement with the part. The most common wrap points are associated with drive shafts or power take-off shafts.


Shear/Cut points: Shear points happen when two edges come together or move passed each other to create a cut. Cut points happen when a single edge moves rapidly and forcefully enough to make a cut or a solid object strikes a single edge. Injuries can range from severe cuts to amputation. Common equipment includes mower blades, disc coulters, cutter bars and parts with sharp edges.


Pinch points: Any equipment that has two objects that come together with at least one of them moving in a circular motion. The point at which the two objects come together becomes the pinch point. Injuries can include abrasions, cuts, or being pulled further into the part. Most pinch points involve belts and pulleys, chains and sprockets, gear drives, or roller assemblies.


Crush points: This occurs when two objects come together or a single object moves towards a stationary object creating a blunt impact. Injuries usually involve damage to tissue, bones, or internal organs. Crush points can include being caught under or between moving parts or equipment.


Burn points: Any area on a piece of equipment that can generate enough heat to cause a burn to the skin if touched. It only takes five seconds to create a third degree burn touching something at 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Common burn points include exhaust mufflers, engine or hydraulic fluids, friction of moving parts, and worn out bearing assemblies.


Free-wheeling parts: Some mechanical systems will take time to come to a complete stop, after the power source has been shut off. Many times these parts are moving silently after the equipment operator has dismounted the equipment. These parts can include rotary mower blades, flywheels, and equipment that must go through a full revolution or cycle to come to a complete stop.


Stored energy: Any amount of potential energy waiting to be released. Injuries occur when the energy is unintentionally or unknowingly released. This can include pressurized hydraulic systems, electrical circuits, spring tension, and chemical reactions.


Thrown objects: Occurs when material or objects are discarded from the equipment with great force. Injuries occur when the object strikes the individual. Objects can be thrown during mowing processes, from discharge chutes, or tossed from rapidly rotating parts.


A single piece of agricultural equipment can have a variety of these hazards, possibly all of them, as well as having the same hazard located in multiple locations around the piece of equipment. By recognizing the hazards that can be present and respecting the power and speed of the equipment, potential for injuries can be significantly reduced. Additional recommendations to prevent injuries from equipment include:

• Read and follow the operator’s manual.

• Review and understand warning labels located on the equipment.

• Use extra caution when working around equipment with belts/pulleys, chains/sprockets, or PTO shafts.

• Avoid loose clothing, hood drawstrings, or long hair around moving parts.

• Stay clear of exposed augers, PTO shafts or drive lines while in use.

• Avoid being in the discharge path of equipment throwing debris.

• Always shut down equipment before doing repairs or inspecting of equipment.

• Allow time for frictional moving parts, engines, mufflers and fluids to cool before servicing equipment.

• Never work under equipment that is supported only by a jack. Use a secondary support device.

• Use the cylinder safety locks on equipment that support hydraulic cylinders, to prevent the release of stored energy in the cylinder.

• After servicing equipment make sure all guards are in place and properly secured

• When hitching or unhitching equipment, stand to the side, and be clearly visible to the tractor driver.

• Chock the wheels on equipment that could move or roll.

• Leave an escape route to prevent getting pinned between two objects.

For more information about agricultural safety visit the OSU Agricultural Safety and Health Program at


Kent McGuire is a Safety and Health Coordinator for the OSU Agricultural Safety Program and can be reached at 292-0588 or This column is provided by the OSU Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, OSU Extension, Ohio Agricultural Research & Development Center, and the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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