Take Time to Check Machinery for a Safe Spring

April 23, 2012

Robins are in the trees, flowers are sprouting in the gardens, and spring is in the air. And with the abnormally warm weather, Wisconsin farmers are no doubt itching to get out to the fields to plant.But there’s a good chance that your planting machinery has been in the shed all winter. Farmers that rush their equipment into the fields without first checking their safety equipment may be asking for trouble. Take the time to check the following areas on your equipment and make sure that you have a safe spring.

Check the Safety Lighting on Your Equipment

Your tractor has probably not been on the road since the past harvest season. It’s a good time to check your tractor’s lights and signage to make sure that they comply with state law. First, state statutes require that a farm tractor have two headlights and at least one red tail-light. Likewise, your disc, planter, or other pull-behind implement needs two red tail-lights or two red reflectors to be roadworthy.

Second, any implement that extends four feet or more to the left of the centerline must have an amber reflector facing on-coming traffic. This reflector should be clear and should warn oncoming traffic of the extension coming at them.

Third, your tractor should have a slow-moving vehicle sign. State statute requires that slow-moving vehicle signs be displayed, day or night, on any vehicle or equipment that travels less than 25 miles per hour. Make sure that your slow-moving vehicle sign is bright and clean; do not go out on the road with a faded sign. And if your tractor has a clearly visible slow-moving vehicle sign, you do not need to add a second one to your implement.

Check Your Machinery for Leaks or Spraying Substances

We have all driven behind a tractor with a leaky valve or seen manure fall off of a spreader on to the road. But allowing leaks and other waste to spill on to public roads may be grounds for a ticket. State statutes prohibit placing “injurious substances” or spilling loads of waste on to public roads. If the car following your leaky equipment is a police officer, you may have a ticket coming.

Take time to check the hoses, valves and fittings on your tractor and implements before taking them on to the road. If you’re pulling a manure spreader, make sure that either the lid is on tight or that your endgate is secure. Take some time to make sure that your sprays and fertilizers end up in your fields rather than on the road.

Check Your PTO Guards and Shields

Power take-off (PTO) shafts are one of the most dangerous items in any farm operation. The PTO components can spin at speeds between 540 and 1000 rotations per minute. Clothing, hair, shoelaces and the like can easily become entangled in the spinning components and result in serious injuries.

Every farmer should know that PTO guards and shields are important safety features that can prevent serious injuries. After checking the PTO for loose bolts or other malfunctions, make sure to reinstall PTO guards and shields before use. Make sure that the PTO master shield is in place and that the driveline is completely enclosed by a guard. Also, be sure to regularly check the driveline guards to make sure that they have not become stuck to the driveline.


The beautiful spring weather has farmers revving their engines over a new planting season. But take time to check the safety features on your planting equipment before you head to the fields. Remember, take time to prep your machinery and have a safe spring.