Clearing Blockages Safely on Agricultural Machinery

Picture of two men clearing a blockage on a harvester


Every year a number of persons are killed or seriously injured while attempting to clear blockages or carry out maintenance on farm machinery. In fact from 2000 to 2009, 80 people have been killed in farm related accidents caused by vehicles and machinery alone.

Before commencing such work, ask yourself the following question. Am I competent to unblock the machine safely? If you are unsure, contact the manufacturer/distributor or obtain the services of a trained, competent person to carry out the work in a safe manner.

The following safe work procedures may be useful to prevent accidents, primarily when clearing blockages or carrying out basic maintenance, on farm machinery:

Stop the Machine Safely:

It’s extremely dangerous to carry out work on a machine under power.

  • Failure to isolate the machine properly before starting work is a common cause of accidents.
  • For mobile equipment apply the handbrake.
  • Ensure the controls are in a safe position, (e.g. in neutral, pressure released from hydraulic systems).
  • Stop the engine, or where there is a secondary power supply disengage and turn off the power supply.
  • Remove the key and if possible lock the door.
  • The wheels may need to be blocked/chocked to prevent movement.


Clearing Blockages:

Have you read the operator manual? Have you been shown/trained how to safely clear a blockage from the machine?

  • Assess the blockage. Are you competent to tackle the job? If not then seek competent assistance.
  • Never use your hands, or try to kick a blockage free, always use a tool.
  • Plan the job. Ensure you have the correct tools & equipment to carry out the job.
  • Secure anything which may fall on you. The loss of power, particularly to hydraulic systems, may cause parts of machinery to fall or rotate freely.
  • Remember hydraulic systems contain oil at high pressure. This pressure can be stored even with the power supply off.
  • Replace all guards before you restart your machine even for a test run. They are there for your protection and the protection of others.
  • If two or more persons are working on a machine, ensure each person knows what the other is doing.
  • Prior to restarting the machine all persons should stand clear of the machine and stand in the eye line of the operator.


Note: Safe work procedures should be incorporated into your safety statement

Machinery accidents can be prevented by keeping the machine in good repair, ensuring the safe stopping of the machine and adopting practical & safe working methods.