Machinery Fatalities

Tractors and Machinery are the main cause of farm accidents in Ireland. Elderly farmers and children are at particular risk. Being entangled in PTO’s, crushed under a machine part, caught in a machine mechanism, crushed between vehicles and struck by a machine object are the main causes of deaths with farm machinery.

Keys to prevention are training, good maintenance and safe work practices.

Work-related fatalities involving machinery 2014 -2023 (total machinery fatalities 13)


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  • All power take-off (PTO) drive shafts must be fully guarded by enclosing them along their full length from the tractor to the first bearing on the machine
  • Ensure the O guard is in place on power drive shafts
  • Protect the tractor PTO with a shield or U guard covering the top and both sides of the PTO to prevent persons making contact with it
  • Disengage the PTO before clearing blockages
  • All loads being transported should be stable and well secured
  • Do not carry passengers except when correct seating is provided. Never carry passengers on the tractor linkage or on the drawbar of the trailer
  • The operator handbook where available should be read and understood
  • Suitable guards should be fitted to all machinery and equipment
  • Always use axle stands or wooden blocks to support raised machinery. Jacks are only for lifting not supporting
  • All tools and equipment should be in good working order with suitable safety devices in place
  • Hydraulic equipment should be supported with an adequate prop during maintenance or repair (e.g. jack stands)
  • The PTO and moving parts should be stopped before attempting to free any machine blockage
  • Passengers should not be carried on machines unless designed to do so
  • Loads should be stable and well secured
  • Operate the equipment from the correct position. Never get into a 'trap zone'
  • Loose or torn clothing should not be worn when you are working near machinery. It is best to wear well-fitting overalls with zipped pockets and safety boots with steel toe-caps

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  • Fixed guards must always be kept in place. These prevent entanglement
  • The guard should ensure that no part of your body can reach the danger zone
  • Fixed guarding of older machines should be upgraded in line with the guarding on newer models
  • Do not use a machine unless all guards are in place



Power take-off (PTO) guarding

In this video, Peter talks about and shows the injuries received from an unguarded PTO shaft.

Viewer discretion is advised.

In this video, Brian and Patrick Phelan discuss Brian's PTO accident and his injuries.

In this video, farmer John Goff recalls how he lost his arm in a PTO shaft accident.

  • Rotating PTO shafts must be totally enclosed by the guard
  • Make sure that the guard matches the shaft both in length and size
  • The PTO should be greased regularly and should rotate on its bearings
  • The chain or rope at both ends of the PTO should be clipped together and then clipped to the tractor or machine to prevent it turning
  • Make sure that drawbar pins or tractor tyres on tight turns do not damage the guard
  • A stand should be provided to support the PTO and guard when not in use
  • While all PTO guards should be in place, particular priority should be given to PTOs used in stationary situations (including slurry tankers and grain rollers)

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Lifting Equipment

  • Lifting equipment should always be checked before use
  • The safe working load (SWL) in tonnes or kilograms must be clearly marked on equipment
  • Never exceed the SWL
  • Any lifting equipment such as pulley blocks and slings must be tested by a competent person before use
  • The equipment should be regularly re-examined by a competent person. Slings should be examined every six months
  • Before undertaking work, always provide support for any lifted object. Axle stands or solid wooden blocks may be used
  • It is a legal requirement to have Lifting Equipment examined by a competent person
    • at 12 month intervals if used to lift materials
    • at 6 month intervals if lifting accessories for lifting materials such as slings, hooks or equipment used to lift people
  • Fixed lifting equipment must be tested as part of a thorough examination before being used for the first time
  • All lifting equipment must be tested after any substantial alteration or repair
  • Hydraulically - operated machines used to lift more than 1,000 Kg should be fitted with check valves or some other suitable device to prevent collapse

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Maintenance of machinery

In this video, Sean talks about and shows the injuries received when a combine harvester fell on him (5 minutes, 10 seconds)

  • Make sure that the machine is in a safe operating condition. All guards and safety devices must be in place and functioning correctly
  • Make sure that machines and trailed equipment are correctly attached to the tractor or vehicle
  • When attaching a machine, take the correct position in order to avoid getting crushed
  • Always stop the machine and the tractor before attempting to carry out maintenance work or to free a blockage
  • Make sure that the machine is adequately supported before working underneath
  • Always turn off the PTO (Power Take Off) and the tractor before attempting to free a blockage or adjust a machine

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  • Consider having repairs done by a competent mechanic
  • Doors must be high enough to allow for modern equipment
  • Floors must not become slippery, even when damp
  • Spills should be cleaned up immediately
  • Use only fireproof materials in workshop construction
  • Solid walls are required to support tool boards and shelves, and to anchor benches
  • Good lighting is essential
  • A well-organised workshop reduces injury risk
  • Maintain a minimum temperature of 10 degrees Celsius
  • Before use, make sure that the power tool is in a safe operating condition, with all the guards in place. Clamp the piece being worked on with a vice
  • With angle grinders, make sure the correct disc is being used and is properly fitted. Never force the disc at the metal, or allow the disc to be trapped in the work piece
  • Welding requires skill, so get training
  • Air compressors can explode if not maintained
  • An inspection by a competent person is required every 24 months
  • Always use a high-quality pressure gauge to make sure that a tyre is inflated to the correct pressure
  • When inflating a tyre fitted to a split rim, always use a safety cage or an airline extension
  • Suitable clothing includes well-fitting overalls with zipped pockets, leather footwear with non- slip soles and steel toe boots
  • Wear nitrile or neoprene gloves when handling hazardous substances
  • The PPE required will depend on the job, but the principal items are protective visors or goggles, ear defenders for noise, and respiratory protection
  • Good hygiene facilities are essential for any major farm workshop. These include washing, drying and toilet facilities

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Machinery Checks

  • All safety guards/ devices fitted
  • The PTO "O" guards present
  • Hydraulic systems and hoses in good repair
  • All machinery defects identified and corrected
  • Regular maintenance carried out

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