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The extreme danger of machinery.

 
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Hi all.  I'm not sure where to put this thread, so I chose large farm since that is where most machinery is but this can be any machine, as well, so it could be on any farm or even a garden or yard.  For the latter I'm thinking rototillers or snowblowers, or lawnmowers.

I was in the clinic today for something relatively minor, and I saw one of my neighbors.  He was visibly shaken and covered with blood, and was heading to the washroom from the councilors room to clean up when I saw him.  He told me that his son in law had got caught in an auger, and he was in really bad shape.

As an amputee myself, having had a tractor lawnmower accident when I was three and a half, I have always been leery of machines and try to follow safety guidelines to the letter.  But even I tend to think I'm invincible occasionally, and try to cut corners.  Don't.  One thing that people tend to do if a machine jams, is go right to it and try to unjam it without shutting the engine off. This is a serious problem, but people do it all the time in order to get back to work quickly as soon as the jam is released.  

I went to a number of Amputee conferences when I was a child, and I was shocked to learn about the amount of kids who had lost a limb from rotational shafts, and this is anything that has an auger, or shaft that turns like a small crane, or a winch.  Get your hair or a shoe string or a finger in it, and the machine pulls the rest of you in with it.  It's that simple.  Even a clothes washer can tear your arm off if you try to pull out something while it's running.

I just needed to write this down, to caution people, to be safe out there, and always shut the machine down when doing anything that involves you working manually near it's working parts.    
 
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Great post!

I think a lot of people don’t understand the danger from PTO shafts and augers. Also, tractors can roll over pretty easily.  I have a 35 HP Case. It’s pretty light weight and a has very short wheel base. It came from the dealer with a Case loader and a 6’ bucket.  The hydraulics are strong enough to lift way more than a safe weight. With the bucket up and full of dirt, it wouldn’t take much more than a pot hole to flip it.

It is a great little tractor though.
 
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I have had a few mishaps over the years while farming.

Last year I was logging and cut through a Spring Pole. The resulting whip-back from what is effectively a huge bow (as in bow and arrow) sent my professional saw (MS 461 Stihl) flying into my forehead at full throttle. It took 20 stitches to close the gap, and 4 days in the hospital to recover.

I also know how easy it is to flop a tractor over. For the first time in 44 years of farming I flopped one over while plowing of all places. I had a skidder right there to flop it back, but still, I was surprised that it went over.

My biggest injury was surprising though, and while it happened at work, it was rather low key. A welder by trade, a piece of slag went into my elbow and caused a burn. That got infected, and to make a long story short, ultimately it took weeks of treatment by the heaviest antibiotic they had. I was given a liter of antibiotic, every 12 hours or 2 weeks to kill the infection (MRSA). Thankfully it worked for my last option was amputation. Unfortunately Vandamaycin works well, too well, as it cannot discriminate between good cells and bad. Ultimately it took out my Pituitary Gland leaving me with a host of problems.


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Roberto pokachinni wrote:One thing that people tend to do if a machine jams, is go right to it and try to unjam it without shutting the engine off.


And for those of you with snowblowers (and possibly other machines with rotation), if it jams and you do turn it off, there can still be enough spring energy wound up in the system that it can still cut your hand off as you clear the chunk of ice.  
 
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I grew up in a farming community, so I was well aware of various problems, and knew someone a few years older than me (same bus, very small rural school district) whose father died in a farming incident (with machinery). I've read recently that this is a growing problem as of late with people returning to small farms where they think they are getting a bargain by buying older tractors that do not have modern safety standards & lack awareness of how dangerous things can be. This article says that tractor accidents count for a third of all farm deaths, and over 80% of those were a result of rollover, but since small farms are exempt from federal oversight, I'm not sure how they know those figures are accurate. https://www.politico.com/agenda/story/2017/04/the-most-dangerous-jobs-in-america-000395
 
Ken W Wilson
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I wonder if this topic could be copied to the Small Farm section?  People on small farms and hobby farms sometimes have less experience and older, less safe machinery.
 
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We have an excavator and a tractor we use. We also have 2 small kids. I've been really worried about running them over. They tend to love to follow the tractor around. Now you've given me something else to panic about.
 
Ken W Wilson
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I remember at least one toddler  that got driven over. He survived but only because of mud. It was bad though.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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I know of a young girl with traumatic brain damage caused by being driven over.   It's pretty serious to keep kids away from machines of all sorts.  

I've been really worried about running them over. They tend to love to follow the tractor around.

 Elle, I would suggest, getting right on that, and making it readily apparent that the tractor is not to be followed, chased, climbed on, et cetera.  Make it clear that it is not part of toyland.  It's not for playing.  It's very dangerous.  etc.

Now you've given me something else to panic about.

Don't panic, just calmly and firmly make it clear.
 
Travis Johnson
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I have a different take on farming and kids, but only because as a kid I spent hours on the fenders of tractors of all the area farmers in the area. To this day I am great friends with these same farmers and many times they have come to my aid. One literally cried when he found out I had cancer, and several more came down to vote in a special town meeting so that Katie and I could get 6 extra months to pay our back property taxes. You do not build respect like that from just being neighbors, it starts by being there helping them in the fields even if you are just a kid.

It also gives kids a love of farming. The US Government says 3% of people are farmers, but they count restaurant servers, busboys, cooks, truckers hauling food, etc. The truth is, when you cut all that away, only 1/2% of us are actual farmers. That is one person out of 200! I grew up where being a farmer was lower than whale poop, so I see anything we can do to make farming an endeavor to the next generation, should be done. It does not mean being stupid, but it does not mean we reduce every risk possible. My daughters all ride on my tractors, bulldozers and skidders. Again I am not stupid about it, there are tasks I will not do with them like bushogging, or planting corn, but I grew up on tractors.

Accidents do happen, but I bet the chances of being hurt on a tractor are about .00005% compared to those who have been strapped into a car seat and taken to the store and gotten into a car accident along the way.
 
Travis Johnson
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When I was a kid I had a teacher tell my mother that I was a great kid, but I had an over-active imagination and that I lied a lot. My mother replied that I was actually truthful to a fault; telling the truth even when I would get in trouble for it.

The teacher said that I often said I drove tractors and bulldozers. That made my mother laugh because at the time we had a John Deere 1010 bulldozer and I was driving it. She said, "But he does!"
I was 10 years old, helping my father by logging. I was 15 when I started using chainsaw...

As for my youngest daughter Kaelyn, her first word was "tractor" pronouncer "acker". We thought she meant cracker until she pointed to me on the tractor and said "acker, acker". I was a proud Dad!
 
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This is such a sad but necessary reminder.

Over the years, I've seen two employees (different companies) with severed fingers.  One was attempting to fix a jam in a machine and stuck his finger in a hole to see if the screw holes aligned.  Thanks to stored energy, he lost his finger.  The other was operating a machine after he bypassed the safety guard.  He had apparently been doing it for years but this one time he got distracted and put his finger in the way of the machine.

A coworker told me after the first incident that his daddy taught him to never stick your finger where you wouldn't stick your [man parts].  I'm a female but the seriousness of that image still lingers with me when I consider using my hands in an unsafe way.  (As does the visual memory of the healing stump.)

I have also seen a small (untreated) cut turn into a life-threatening/nearly died situation because a mechanic didn't wash his hands properly.  I always emphasize the importance of soap, antiseptic and a band-aid in my safety talks and in my own life if something starts to feel hot/painful, I stop what I'm doing and go wash it thoroughly immediately.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Hi Travis:  

Again I am not stupid about it, there are tasks I will not do with them like bushogging, or planting corn, but I grew up on tractors.

Accidents do happen, but I bet the chances of being hurt on a tractor are about .00005% compared to those who have been strapped into a car seat and taken to the store and gotten into a car accident along the way.

 I completely agree.  There is a big difference between a responsible and experienced operator, and one that is prone to make decisions that could cost life or limb.  There is no need to coddle farm kids, but they should be given a healthy respect for the power, size, and moving capability of a machine, and know what a blind spot is, for instance.  It is also important that any person should know to approach a working machine at a safe rotational distance, and within the direct forward field of vision of the operator.  And the operator has to know when it is O.K. to have a kid on the fender or back of the seat, and when to tell the kid that it's time to get off because situation could get hairy.  

When I visited the family farm in Saskatchewan for the summer as a 15 year old, I couldn't/didn't know how to drive a car, but my 9 year old cousin was driving a 5 ton grain truck with wood blocks strapped on the pedals !   There's a huge difference in how a child is raised as to what they are prepared properly to do.  The learning curve and the necessity for kids to get involved in their parent's lives is very different on the farm.  I wasn't prepared to drive anything but their small dirt bikes, and that in itself was a bit of a clown show at first. ...But this kid had been driving huge machines and trucks since he was younger than that.    

Hi Sonya:



A coworker told me after the first incident that his daddy taught him to never stick your finger where you wouldn't stick your [man parts].  I'm a female but the seriousness of that image still lingers with me when I consider using my hands in an unsafe way.  (As does the visual memory of the healing stump.)  

 At my work on the railway, this is known as the penis rule.  :)
 
Sonja Draven
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Roberto pokachinni wrote:

Hi Sonya:



A coworker told me after the first incident that his daddy taught him to never stick your finger where you wouldn't stick your [man parts].  I'm a female but the seriousness of that image still lingers with me when I consider using my hands in an unsafe way.  (As does the visual memory of the healing stump.)  

 At my work on the railway, this is known as the penis rule.  :)



:)  He used a different word (I don't know what's okay to say here and what's not so I error on the side of caution) but yes, that's the rule!
 
Roberto pokachinni
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So I got a bit more of an update from the accident scene yesterday.  The auger was a post hole digger, and what happened was that the auger grabbed onto a length of old wire that was buried in the sod, the wire whipped around and got around the guy's leg, and it constricted so tight on his leg that it could not be removed, even at the surgery at the clinic that I was at, where the ambulance brought him.  He was flown by medivac helicopter to Vancouver.  
 
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Roberto pokachinni wrote:So I got a bit more of an update from the accident scene yesterday.  The auger was a post hole digger, and what happened was that the auger grabbed onto a length of old wire that was buried in the sod, the wire whipped around and got around the guy's leg, and it constricted so tight on his leg that it could not be removed, even at the surgery at the clinic that I was at, where the ambulance brought him.  He was flown by medivac helicopter to Vancouver.  



Oh yikes! I can envision how that happens. I'm still trying to finish getting some old decorative flower-bed fencing removed. Still haven't gotten to it all. Had to individually clip the wire in multiple places all over because of all the roots grown through it. How scary!!!
 
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I recently moved onto a small farm which needs a lot of clearing of fallen trees and branches. I was considering buying a chainsaw but having had very little experience using one, and having read these comments, I would prefer to get something without an engine ie a good saw and/or a felling ax. What can people recommend please?
 
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These warnings are so true, especially the bit about people getting back into farming and trying to save cash with older machinery.
I was one of these kids driving a tractor, having gone off to work young. I think about it now and sometimes I shudder, sometimes I thank goodness.

@Joe, all of these warnings are good to keep you on your toes. No need to be afraid, but instead always respect your tools (everything from mowers to your kitchen knives) and just be mindful.

During college I worked at a summer camp where among other insane things, we taught inner-city teens how to use chainsaws (we were right on the US/Canada border, taking kids from NYC for a week).  Obviously this was in the 90s and not recently!
We gave the kids all sorts of safety gear (you can now buy gloves and pants and other gear made of kevlar that will jam the chain if caught in it) but the rule was always to think about the saw first. Where's it going if it slices through too fast or easily, where can it go if the energy switches backwards (if you hit a knot), keep those zones clear. We also taught these kids to ride horses, make fires, and just basically handle responsibility. It was great, and the only injuries we had (predictably) were from the counselors, who generally got hurt because they knew it all and didn't take the necessary precautions with the saws, with horses, with their cars.
 
Sonja Draven
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Joe Black wrote:I recently moved onto a small farm which needs a lot of clearing of fallen trees and branches. I was considering buying a chainsaw but having had very little experience using one, and having read these comments, I would prefer to get something without an engine ie a good saw and/or a felling ax. What can people recommend please?



Agree with Tereza.  One of my brothers cut himself quite badly with a machete when he was younger (and still has the scar, I believe).  All tools can hurt you pretty badly if you don't wear proper PPE and use precautions.
 
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Joe Black wrote:I recently moved onto a small farm which needs a lot of clearing of fallen trees and branches. I was considering buying a chainsaw but having had very little experience using one, and having read these comments, I would prefer to get something without an engine ie a good saw and/or a felling ax. What can people recommend please?



There are classes you can take on using a chainsaw properly and I recommend that approach.

I will tell you that if you buy less than professional quality in axes and saws, you will end up regretting it, the money is well spent if you are going to use these tools more than every now and then.
They stay sharp longer and they don't bend or chip easily, axe heads stay in place far better too.
Good saws for felling trees take two people to operate usually (the single man saw is a bear to learn to use,they run about 250 dollars US and up)
A good felling axe will set you back about 150 dollars US most are made in either Sweden or Germany or the USA.

forestry supply

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ourbest axes

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Saw this thread- wanted to share a story.

I was out on a farm cutting iron. The farmer had drug one of these things out of the grove, IH 5 Hay Rake, or something very similar. It was all bent up once it came out, so it needed to be cut up to fit in my pickup. The hoops on the bottom were twisted real good, and I started cutting them. One of the hoops sprung out, red hot iron fresh from the cutting torch, and contacted my inner arm.

OUCH!

Never did get it "treated" anywhere- cleaned it up and had a scar for about 4 years. Can't tell now... but that was one of the *few* actual surprises I've had.

To the OP- wire on a post hole auger really sounds like a bad deal.
 
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Roberto pokachinni wrote:So I got a bit more of an update from the accident scene yesterday.  The auger was a post hole digger, and what happened was that the auger grabbed onto a length of old wire that was buried in the sod, the wire whipped around and got around the guy's leg, and it constricted so tight on his leg that it could not be removed, even at the surgery at the clinic that I was at, where the ambulance brought him.  He was flown by medivac helicopter to Vancouver.  



Hey Roberto, just for clarity, do you know if we are talking about a post hole digger powered from a tractor power-takeoff unit, one of those stand-alone tow-behind post-hole-diggers with its own large engine, or the one-person gasoline-powered auger with what looks like a chainsaw engine on the top?

I'd say "asking for a friend" in the ironic manner of the kids on Twitter if I was sure the joke would translate; I just bought one of the cheap Chinese chainsaw-type dirt augers this spring and have been using it with great care.  I grew up around quite a bit of mining equipment and chainsaws and buzzsaws (we burned twenty cords of wood a winter along the Yukon River where I grew up) so I have a lot of respect for rotational energy and I thought I had enough imagination to comprehend all the likely ways in which it could maim me, but this one had not crossed my mind.  Am still trying to visualize if it's a one-person human-portable model that did this or one of the larger models that is independently glued to the ground by gravity and fed by a lot of horsepower.  
 
Joe Black
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:
There are classes you can take on using a chainsaw properly and I recommend that approach.

I will tell you that if you buy less than professional quality in axes and saws, you will end up regretting it, the money is well spent if you are going to use these tools more than every now and then.
They stay sharp longer and they don't bend or chip easily, axe heads stay in place far better too.
Good saws for felling trees take two people to operate usually (the single man saw is a bear to learn to use,they run about 250 dollars US and up)
A good felling axe will set you back about 150 dollars US most are made in either Sweden or Germany or the USA.



Thank you Bryant Redhawk, I appreciate your advice.
 
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Joe Black chainsaws are mighty useful for working with wood and I second the suggestion of taking a pro course on using them properly and safely.

Dangerous machinary was new to me as I grew up in a city but with career changes toward nature I started using chainsaws, guns, and other dangerous but at times exceptionally useful tools common in the woods. I was very nervous using these things at first but I got training from pros who knew how things can go wrong and took safety seriously. Now I'm pretty comfortable using chainsaws (except for 'edge cases' like spring poles and stuck trees) and am always on top of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs - remember your PPEs!). I cringe and complain to see friends run a saw without proper safety equipment or techniques. Especially gear for parts commonly cut in accidents (head, legs, feet), inline safety components in the machine (chain break, chain catch), techniques like avoiding the 'plane of death' and kickback zone... These tools can go severely wrong in the blink of an eye, it is worth the time attention and money to minimize the risk of that happening as much as possible.

All that said I make way fewer mistakes now that I approach & use chainsaws calmly and comfortably. Knowing the ways it goes wrong is a key to making sure you avoid trouble, and from there you expand your comfort zone and be extra careful when beyond your comfort zone (e.g. when dealing with a hung up tree that might have some pressure I'm extremely cautious or just walk away and leave the job to nature or a more experienced sawyer).
 
Travis Johnson
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I almost lost my life from a welding burn. I was not welding for my farm, but commercially building ships for the US Navy, but all that happened was a glob of slag dropped down my sleeve on a vertical up weld and burned my elbow. I ignored the burn for a few week until it got puffy and hot to the touch, and even adminitered a shot of antibiotic (LA 200) to stop the infection before I went to the hospital, but by then it was already really late.

Three times I went to the emergency room, until finally they had to give me infusions of the Vandymycin, the highest antibiotic available, twice a day, 3 hour IV drips, for two weeks. Had that not worked, I would have had my arm amputated. But had the burn happened in 1930, I would have been dead.

From that I have MRSA.

The part that is frustrating about that is that medical staff take it very lighty and often scoff and say, "it says here you have MRSA, but I am not too worried about you", to which I have to remind them that it is a two way street. It is not just about me bringing an infection to a hospital that is antibitic reisitant, but that if they have bacteria present, I CANNOT RECOVER! Their protective garb is for me as much as for them.
 
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I have two stories about PTO shafts I want to convey.  I had two relatives who were involved in PTO accidents (I think in the 1940s, but I am not certain).  My grandfather was helping out as a farmhand near a tractor that was using an unshielded PTO shaft to run a grain auger.  This was in a day before PTO shafts came with their own covers.  In his case, since he was working on a farm, he was wearing his absolutely worst set of overalls he had and they were held together by bare threads.  In his case, this was very fortunate for him.  Neighbors saw him walking up to the farmhouse completely naked.  Some of his clothing got caught on the PTO shaft and completely tore every item of clothing from his body except for his socks and boots.  Had his clothing been any sturdier, he would have been wrapped around that PTO shaft as well.  He was extremely shaken, but incredibly not seriously injured.

Another uncle was not so lucky.  At about the same time (same decade or so), I had an uncle (one I never met) who was also working with a tractor powering a grain auger.  No one knows the exact details because the tractor he was working near was found stuck in a ditch across the field from the grain bin, but the wheels were still turning, digging up mud.  My uncle had been reduced strips of flesh wrapped for hours around the PTO shaft.  It is believed that the tractor slipped into gear while stationary, catching my uncle and wrapping him around that PTO shaft. Sorry to be so gory, but this story seems fitting for this thread.  This is a family story and a detail or two may not be perfect, but my grandfather barely survived and my uncle died horribly.

The moral I take away from these two stories is that if you are working with a PTO shaft, for God’s sake, please make absolutely certain it is shielded and even then, please treat that particular part of the tractor with the greatest of care.  

Eric
 
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My stepbrother in law (yeah a mouthfull) lost his boss about 4 years ago when a winch cable snapped and took his head off in front of the workers, they were winching something over a ditch using tractors. And someone who I can at least say I did not know was killed at work here three years ago when the large tracked tractor that was helping put in new field drains drove over him, he had been walking along side it and the driver obviously didn't know he was there and turned over him.

My nephews first word was tractor. but he is NEVER allowed near it without an adult, and never allowed on the ground around it if it is on, if it is on and he wants to be there he has to be in it. Father in law is really good at running things over with the tractor I certainly wouldn't let a kid be anywhere near it. Most of the machinery on that farm is unguarded, potato washers/sorters etc all belt driven and all belts are open there's no emergancy stops either. FiL's wife nearly lost her hand to the potato planter, it has a chain with cups which take potatoes from the hopper and then down into the furrow it creates, as per normal she was trying to do too much (it is designed for 2 people and she was alone) and stuck her finger into the chain, luckily she got it back out and only had a torn tendons.

Rushing is when accidents happen don't do it no matter how important it seems at the time.
 
R Spencer
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Oof, the run-over reminds me of another horror story. Simply that a logger accidentally ran over his friend and team member. I didn't see it but worked with the team before and after. Story goes the equipment operator was doing business as usual, and the guy on the ground stood way too close behind the thing when it was going to be backed up. Folks thought the guy who got run over must've been confused or not paying attention because he should've known better. The guy driving was devastated and the other dead.

Makes me wary of heavy machinery. Working as a forester I had a couple scary situations when trying to urgently communicate with guys operating feller-bunchers in the woods that don't have radios or good vision. In one case, I let the logger keep doing the wrong thing for a while because I couldn't safely get his attention. In the other case, having not learned to me more cautious yet, I got the guys attention after quite a while trying and putting myself in situations where I could've easily been crushed by his machinery or tree felling. Stupid on my part not to put safety first, especially in difficult to maneuver terrain, bad vision from the driver's eyes and muddy windshield, and knowing there's some confusion already since the guy was working in an area wasn't meant to be according to maps and flagging. Thankfully I survived mostly unharmed, the operator eventually seeing me and shutting down. Yeesh

Communication, visibility, safety checks are all key. Even then sometimes these things go catastrophically wrong if not everyone is doing their part with safety, so you gotta watch out for 'the other guy' too.
 
pollinator
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Seems like quite a few people who work around tractors eventually have one slip into gear, or start one that's in gear while standing in front of the wheels. There are safety precautions I occasionally overlook, but I never start a tractor I'm not sitting on...

I helped a friend fix up his woodshed last summer, after he started the tractor from the ground and had it chase him over the woodpile before wedging itself against the shed... funny thing is I also recall him starting his dozer in gear, while standing on the track, a few months before. Guess he's too old to learn...

My theory is wet butts kill. Nobody wants to sit on that wet seat when they're just starting the machine to warm it up... but at least get all the way on!

My tractor has a shuttle shift, so if I'm getting off it I shift both that and the gearshift into neutral, so it would take two accidents/malfunctions plus overwhelming the parking brake for it to start moving. If possible I also ground the loader.
 
master pollinator
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I come from the small town of Ripley Ontario in Canada. I can recall many horrific injuries and deaths involving farm equipment. Two children were killed by the power take off on tractors. A five-year old was driven over when he approached his father from the rear as he was moving manure. One boy lost a toe when he went up a hay elevator without shoes. A 16 year old bled to death when he tried to clear a large clog of silage that was being fed into a hammer mill. Both legs cut off below the knee. Two young men were paralyzed when their tractors flipped over while pulling heavy loads. Our neighbor caught his hand in the sand corn grinder three times. A girl was kicked in the head by a horse and has not been right since. A boy was riding on the tractor with his father and he fell behind the machine where a disc was immediately dried over him.

In about 1975 we went to an event called the ploughing match where show the kids some pretty horrific video and cartoons of what could happen. Now there are covers on the power takeoff and children don't generally ride on the back of tractors where they can fall and be driven over.
 
Skandi Rogers
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[quote=Dale Hodgins
Now there are covers on the power takeoff and children don't generally ride on the back of tractors where they can fall and be driven over.

It's quite interesting looking at the changes in safety, but they are not always the right way. FiL has two planting machines, one old one for bare rooted plants, it has a pair of disks that you put the plant into that then spin it down to the furrow and leave it there, and the other one has a rotating cassette that you drop a plug plant into, the cassette is much faster and harder to fall off, but if you did fall off you are in-front of the furrowers so would be injured, whereas the old machine you are behind everything, so if you do fall off you'll fall a foot and land on your butt and just feel a bit silly, watching the tractor drive away.
 
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