With spring on the way, it is time to get busy working the soil, but before you can do that, you need to make sure that your tools are up for the job. Maybe you haven’t touched your tractor in months or maybe you just haven’t gotten under the hood, but now is the perfect time to practice basic tractor safety maintenance.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The best way to be safe is to think ahead and not take any chances. Inspect your tractor thoroughly at least once a year or any time it hasn’t been in use. Things may have changed more than your think. Texas A&M recommends checking the following tractor safety features:

Tractor Safety Check

  • Roll-Over Protection Structure (ROPS) – Does your tractor have a cage? Is there any structural damage requiring repair or replacement? Look for signs of metal fatigue.
  • Guards/Shields – Make sure guards are in place and fully secured to the tractor.
  • Seat safety switch – Is the switch connected and functional? Tractor run-overs are the second most frequent cause of tractor-related deaths on farms.
  • Brake system – Brakes should be properly adjusted and fluid levels checked.
  • Tire pressure – Confirm that tire pressure falls within the recommended range.
  • Lights/signals – All lights should be visible and functional. Clean off excessive dirt and test.
  • Hydraulic system – Examine hoses and connections for leaks or signs of wear. Make sure fluid levels are correct.
  • Steering system – Does the steering pull one way or another? This could be very dangerous at high speeds.
  • SMV (Slow Moving Vehicle) emblem – Is there a clean SMV emblem located near the rear of the vehicle, clearly visible to other drivers?
  • Cleanliness – Clean up any oil spills, dirt, or ice to prevent potential falls, fire, or other safety hazards.
  • Fire extinguisher – The tractor should be equipped with a 10-pound ABC dry chemical rated fire extinguisher securely fastened inside the cab or operator’s station, mounted so that it is accessible from the ground. Invert the fire extinguisher once or twice per season and shake them to ensure that powder hasn’t compacted due to tractor vibration.
  • First Aid Kit – Tractors should be equipped with a first aid kit securely fastened inside the cab. This should be stocked to treat both minor and major injuries including bandages, gauze, antiseptics, disposable rubber gloves, and empty plastic bags.

Tractor Safety Practices

In addition to performing regular safety checks on your tractor, it is even more important to engage in safe practices when operating a tractor. This means being aware of your surroundings and taking every necessary precaution. Here are a few things you should consider for tractor safety:

  • No riders – Do not allow people to ride on your tractor unless they are operating it solo. Tractors are designed for a single operator and not safe for additional passengers.
  • Exercise patience and moderation – Keep the load low while moving the tractor at low speeds. Utilize rear weight as needed to balance the tractor.
  • Avoid ditches and embankments – The edge of a ditch or bank may be weak and unable to support the weight of your tractor. If you aren’t careful, you may easily roll over.
  • Be careful on slopes or hillsides – Upsets tend to happen when climbing hills, pulling out of a ditch, or overloading the drawbar. Watch out for rocks, bumps, or holes. Keep your wheels spread as wide as possible for better balance. Take uphill turns cautiously, and if you need to climb a steep grade, try driving in reverse.
  • Hitch to drawbar only – You should never hitch to your axle or seat bracket. This can dramatically increase the risk of upsetting the tractor backwards. Engage the clutch smoothly and avoid sudden acceleration.