Tractors are more common on farms than any other piece of equipment and are used to carry mounted and semi-mounted implements, to transport equipment and materials, to pull tillage equipment and wagons as remote power sources for other equipment.


Unfortunately, every year, tractor accidents result in serious disabling injuries and tragic loss of life. Losses include property damage, medical bills, time off work, reduced productivity and increased insurance costs.

The major causes of injury and death to tractor operators are rollovers, falls and contact with tractor attachments.


Agriculture consistently ranks among the top three most dangerous industries in the U.S., stated by National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. Tractor accidents are the number one cause of deaths and injuries in agriculture.



  • Cal-OSHA § 3441. Operation of Agricultural Equipment,
  • Cal-OSHA §3651 Agricultural and Industrial Tractors
  • Cal-OSHA §3664 Operating Rules
  • Cal-OSHA §1590 to Cal-OSHA §1596 Haulage and Earth Moving


Training Requirements

When do I need training?

At the time of initial assignment and at least annually thereafter, the employer shall instruct every employee in the safe operation and servicing of all equipment with which the employee is, or will be involved including, instruction on the safe work practices and operating rules.



Agricultural equipment shall be operated in accordance with the following safe work practices and operating rules:

  • Keep all guards in place when the machine is in operation.
  • Permit no riders on agricultural equipment other than persons required for instruction or assistance in machine operation.
  • Read the Operators Manual and know the operating instructions prior to operating any equipment:
  • Conduct and document a pre-shift inspection.
  • Always keep the cab clean, neat and organized
  • Watch for still air conditions and possible CO poisoning.
  • When operating indoors, use an air monitor and don’t rely on natural ventilation.
  • Indoors, it’s best to set up a positive ventilation condition – lots of fans and air movement.
  • When entering or exiting the cab, always face the tractor.
  • Always maintain 3-points of contact.
  • Never jump out of the cab. FYI: If there is any electrical line contact, this may require jumping.
  • If equipped with a door, ensure that door is latched in the open position or is blocked to avoid closing inadvertently.
  • Use the proper steps and handholds for stability.
  • Avoid crossing over feet when climbing up or down. This is a trip hazard as well as a back twister.



A pre-operational check of the tractor is required. Check the tires for proper inflation and defects, windows for visibility, seat position, seat belts, brakes for adjustment, steering response, rear view mirrors, slow-moving vehicle emblem, reflectors, and running lights for day or nighttime operation.


Safety Check: Walk around the tractor and any attached implement checking the area for obstacles that may be under or near the tractor. This includes stones, boards, etc. Check that the wheels are free, not frozen or stuck in the ground. If the rear wheels are frozen to or stuck in the ground, this may cause the tractor to flip backwards around the axle when power is applied. Check for any loose parts or objects on the tractor such as tools on the platforms or around brakes and other controls.

Service Walkaround: Walk around the tractor a second time to check the tractor itself. This time look at the tires for wear and inflation, the power takeoff shaft for shielding and guarding (rotate the shield to make sure it moves freely), the hitch for proper hitch pin and safety clip. Pay particular attention to the ground under the tractor for any signs of liquid leaks such as oil, coolant or fuel.

Check the oil: Remove the dipstick, wipe it clean and check the oil level. If oil is required, remember to wipe off the filler cap before you remove it to avoid dirt falling into the engine. Use a clean funnel and clean the top of the oil can to prevent rust or other foreign objects going in with the oil.

Check the radiator: Slowly remove the red cap and check the liquid level.

Check the air pre-cleaner and air cleaner. Remove and shake out any dirt.

Check the fuel level. Fill, if necessary, but it should have been filled at the end of the last day the tractor was used.

Check the fire extinguisher. Your tractor should have a fire extinguisher in case of fire during operation or refueling. Make sure it is charged and easily accessible.

Any noted defects should be corrected immediately. These can affect performance and your safety! 




Occasionally it may be necessary to handle, adjust or change the battery on your tractor. Batteries contain sulfuric acid which can cause considerable harm if it comes into contact with your skin. They can also produce mixtures of hydrogen gas and oxygen which can explode if contacted with heat or sparks. Only trained and authorized maintenance personnel should handle batteries and they must be equipped with appropriate PPE.


Power Take-Off (PTO) Moving parts.

  • Keep all PTO shafts guarded unless the driven equipment has guarding for the PTO shaft.
  • Have guards in place for gears, belts, chains, revolving shafts, etc.
  • Ensure that guards do not interfere with the operation of the equipment, such as snapping or husking rolls, straw spreaders, cutter bars, flail rotors, rotary beaters, mixing augers, feed rolls, rotary tillers, and similar units.
  • Keep access doors in place when the equipment is in operation.
  • Make sure that PTO drivelines are also guarded.
  • Do not use PTO drivelines when guards, shields, or access doors are damaged or missing.
  • Stay away from unguarded moving parts.
  • Watch your step when walking or working around a running machine.
  • Always disengage the PTO and turn off tractor ignition before approaching the driveline.
  • Wait until the driveline and the whole machine stop moving before performing maintenance and repair or adjusting. Use lockout/tagout/blackout to control sudden movement or operation.


Harvesting Equipment: Auger

  • Never override safety features.
  • Check the post hole digger for signs of damage.
  • Check the work area for rocks or foreign objects.
  • Make sure the handles and gripping areas are dry and in good condition.
  • Start the throttle at a slow setting and increase as needed.
  • Hold the machine firmly with both hands.
  • Make sure the hole is straight before you dig too deeply.
  • Except for the operator, no one should be near the auger when it is on. Others should keep back 10 feet or more.
  • Only operate an auger when there is good visibility and light.
  • Do not operate when the ground is wet or slippery.


Combine Harvest Operations

  • Due to the large size of modern combines, extra room is needed for turning, passing through gates and general maneuvering. It is important to know the physical dimensions of your machine.
  • New operators unfamiliar with rear wheel steering must be trained to understand how quickly the back of the self-propelled combine swings around when turning.
  • Heightened precaution is especially important when operating near obstructions or traveling on public roads.
  • Cylinder speed changes typically have to be made with the machine running. No other adjustments should be attempted with the power engaged, even if it seems convenient.
  • Lock all guards and shieldsin place before starting the machine.



Harvesting Equipment: Sprayers

Raised operator platform allows for greater coverage of crops, but can also bring other hazards including:

  • Slips and/or fall while mounting or dismounting the machinery.
  • Vehicle instability due to slope or grade changes.
  • Limited visibility and potential for co- worker runover.


Night Harvesting Safety Requirements

California Code of Regulation, Title 8, Section 3441. Operation of Agricultural Equipment

  • A headlight that illuminates at least 50 feet in front of all self-propelled equipment (such as tractors and harvesters) is required.
  • The back of the equipment must be illuminated.
  • Additional lighting is required if in-field adjustments or workers will be in close proximity to the equipment.
  • Any operations that take place between one hour before dusk and one hour after dawn are considered working at night.
  • Lighting Requirements



  • Short distances and slow, low volume roads only
  • Keep right, follow applicable rules of the road.
  • Turn on flashers.
  • Use a pilot vehicle to escort the tractor.
  • A pilot chaser is always recommended and required in certain conditions.
  • If equipped, engage the amber beacon.
  • Use turn signals if equipped. If not equipped with turn signals, a pilot chaser is highly recommended.
  • For frequent movement on public roads, consider a road closure, a detour or a flag person.
  • Turn on work or headlights.
  • Never exceed speed limits
  • Slow down when passing oncoming traffic.
  • On narrow roads, a Temporary Traffic Control (TTC) plan may be required.


Parking Equipment

  • If turbocharged, run the engine at ½ speed for 2 minutes +/-
  • Then allow the engine to idle for 20 seconds.
  • Increasing engine speed with no load then idling down allows the turbocharger to properly cool.
  • Stop engine.
  • Chock wheels if parked on an incline.
  • Secure rig before leaving the seat.
  • Engine off, trans in neutral, parking brake set.
  • If the FNR can be locked, lock it.
  • Stop on level ground, chock wheels on slopes.
  • It is almost always best to not park on slopes.
  • Bucket or attachments lowered to the ground.
  • If the rig takes off, do not attempt to jump in, just prepare yourself for the disaster to follow. Better still, do it right and never have a runaway tractor.
  • Ensure parking place is out of thoroughfares.
  • Don’t block emergency response equipment access.
  • Stay away from elevator or stairway access points.
  • Keep out of traffic lanes.
  • Keep out of fire lanes.
  • Don’t block doorways.



Have the proper personal protective equipment available for the work to be completed and wear it.

  • Watch for Pinch Points/Caught Between or Crush areas when changing tools or attachments.
  • Spills or splashes: wash skin/remove soaked clothing.
  • Place-soaked clothing or rags in sealed containers; dispose of them according to SDS Sections 6 and 13 rules or local/state Hazardous Materials Waste regulations.
  • Always have a spill kit nearby and readily accessible
  • For spills into the environment, clean up immediately and if the spill is large enough or in an Environmentally Sensitive Area, government agency notification may be necessary such as the EPA, Fish and Game, BAAQM etc.
  • Fueling for some job sites or areas may require parking in a containment vessel before fueling or placing a large containment structure under the equipment.
  • Verify an appropriate fire extinguisher is on hand.
  • Before using a fire extinguisher, you must be fire extinguisher trained.
  • If fueling requires climbing onto the rig, keep hands and shoes free of grease.
  • No repairs to equipment shall be made when refueling.



  • From small piles, use 4-in-one if equipped.
  • Use backing structure such as K-rail or wall.
  • Ensure no damage to any structure.
  • From large piles, start low, raise boom and scoop bucket back while progressing forward.
  • If tandem loading, good communication between operators is required. This action takes practice and a steady hand.
  • From small piles, use 4-in-one if equipped.
  • Use backing structure such as K-rail or wall.
  • Ensure no damage to any structure.
  • From large piles, start low, raise boom and scoop bucket back while progressing forward.
  • If tandem loading, good communication between operators is required. This action takes practice and a steady hand.
  • WHEN picking up. Loads may need to occasionally back-drag the pile to access more loadable material.
  • Avoid under cutting piles, this is a good way to get buried!
  • Do not ram the loader into the bottom of piles.
  • Once full, check-flip the bucket back to reduce losing material during transit.
  • Clean or back-drag spilled material as you go.
  • Watch for uneven or awkward loads that may drop or cause unstable movement.



  • If you are working near or in support of the tractor or other equipment, maintain a safe distance.
  • Wear the appropriate personal protective equipment, including hi-vis apparel.
  • If you can’t see the operator the operator can’t see you. Do not enter the area the equipment is operating in until eye contact is established with the operator.
  • Understand the communication method, radio, hand signal/visual.


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