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Mechanics Corner: Suggestions for safe baling

Sam Steel Published on 14 May 2012

During a typical summer day you won’t travel too far into the countryside without noticing a local farmer putting up some hay. Or, as the old saying goes, “making hay while the sun shines.”

Harvesting hay crops can be hazardous to owners and operators, family members and farm employees, even those with previous haying experience. From the planning stage to the unloading and stacking stage, safety hazards lurk around each hay bale.

To keep dangers to a minimum, farmers should follow these simple but important safety suggestions.

  • Pre-planning is important, especially if the haying is being done for the first time this season.

Check the hayfields for debris, limbs, depressions or holes that have appeared since last year. Before starting, review the operator’s manual on the haying machinery and make sure the proper maintenance and lubrication of the equipment’s components have been completed.

  • In many farming communities, haying equipment is transported on a public roadway. Be sure the proper safety equipment, such as the SMV (slow-moving vehicle) emblems and equipment lighting, are installed and working.

Some haying equipment is large and bulky and may obstruct your view when out on the roadway. Make sure your mirrors are clean and adjusted and will allow you to monitor other vehicles that may be getting ready to pass your rig.

Also be extra careful when pulling to the side of the road to allow vehicles to pass. Many preventable incidents have occurred when a farm machinery operator pulls too far off the road and slides into a ditch or over a bank.

  • The terrain on which hay is grown is often sloping and too steep for other crops. Excessive speed and sharp turns on slopes can create hazardous overturn and jackknife conditions.

Keep your speed under control for all haying operations. Don’t allow untrained and immature operators to perform haying on slopes, no matter how experienced they claim to be.

Mowing and haying on sloping farm ground continues to be a major cause of tractor and machinery overturns.

  • Newer haying methods with large round or square bales are a time-saving operation but are not without their own unique set of hazards.

Round bales weighing 500 to 1,000 pounds each are particularly dangerous and are prone to roll down a slope if not properly placed by a round baler.

They should also never be carried on or in a front-mounted bucket on a tractor or skid-steer loader. If they bounce out of the bucket, their next stop may be in the lap of an unfortunate tractor or machine operator.

  • Haying machine operators should never leave the operating station of their equipment with the PTO engaged and the engine running.

Tragic incidents occur each year when frustrated operators leave the equipment operating while trying to unplug or repair the machine.

Entanglements and entrapments are common. And since most operators are working alone, they may not be found for hours after the incident has occurred.

Keep yourself, family members and farm employees safe by following these simple yet important suggestions.  FG

—Excerpts from Penn State Agricultural Safety and Health News, Vol. 21, No. 5