By: Vashti Kelly, Programs Manager

According to the National Ag Safety Database, tractors are the most frequent cause of injury and for fatal farm accidents. These accidents have resulted from falls off moving tractors, individuals being run over, and tractor rollovers, all preventable accidents if operators know what dangers to look for when operating tractors and how to minimize the likelihood of injury. Not all tractor accidents are fatal, and by gauging potential hazards such as people, climate conditions, chemicals in use, mechanical parts, and uneven terrain that might interfere with safe usage one is well on their way to practicing safe tractor operation.

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Once tractor operators have identified those hazards, now, it’s time to assess the risks. Tractor safety requires active prevention, especially when operating on uneven terrain. Remember the operator should walk the land prior to mounting the tractor, to see what risks if any, there might be and what to expect. When observing the terrain around your tractor:

  • Watch out for ditches, logs, rocks, depressions, and embankments.
  • On steep slopes, without a trailed implement, reverse up for greater safety.
  • Engage the clutch gently at all times, especially when going uphill or towing.
  • Use as wide a wheel track as possible on hillsides and sloping ground.
  • Descend slopes cautiously in low gear, using the motor as a brake.
  • Remember to go slow.
  • Avoid jerky movements.

Of course, receiving structured training and being experienced in operating a tractor cannot be overemphasized; however, neither can proper planning. When operating a tractor over rough terrain get to know the ground around you and stick to planned routes whenever possible.  And, walk new routes if necessary to check for hidden obstructions; keep in mind when selecting routes allow for changes to the surface and weather conditions and for any loads and attachments. These make a marked difference to the stability and abilities of the tractor.


For more information on tractor hazards the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has assembled an agricultural safety fact sheet, Protecting Agricultural Workers from Tractor Hazards.  Or contact AFOP’s Health & Safety staff for additional information.