You’ve all read the stories about how a seemingly simple tow job of a stuck piece of equipment turned into a tragic accident. You’ve heard it first hand from friends or families. You may have even been stuck yourself and had a close call.
But have you examined what happened and considered finding safer ways? While the argument, “We’ve always done it this way,” may seem positive without actually examining how you get un-stuck you could be just gambling with your life, or someone else’s.
There are three things to consider about being stuck. The first is the assumption that being stuck is unavoidable — we farm, therefore we will get stuck. Stuck a little or a lot but stuck for sure.
The second is that there is no way to prevent getting stuck. It is just a part of the way of the field and road when using farming equipment.
The third is the assumption that there isn’t any way to make it safer. That there are only two ways to get unstuck — push or pull.
All three assumptions require examination because while, on the surface, they are correct, they are also wrong in some potentially deadly way.
- More ‘Farm Safety’ on Grainews: Spinning out with farm equipment
Another look at getting stuck
We can avoid some situations where we get stuck. Staying away from known wet spots, soft spots or alkali spots is the easiest. Train your staff to stay away from them as well. A general rule of thumb we have for new workers is “if you see ducks don’t drive there.” We can often get tunnel vision in the field — gotta pick up that last swath, bale those last bales, regardless of the ground conditions.
Knowing the warning signs of soft ground can often help you avoid getting badly stuck. Get to know the feel of your front end, how your tires move on hard ground and soft ground. By being aware of your surroundings you can notice changes in conditions early on and avoid costly situations like being stuck.
There are safer ways to get unstuck. And they are not costly or complicated. First check your equipment. Are your hitches, clevisis and pins in good condition, are they the right size for the implement? Have you changed from pins to clevisis for pulling? Do you have a tow rope? Is it heavy enough for the equipment you may need to pull? Is it in good condition: not frayed, or stretched out? Put the chains away — a tow rope is a much safer alternative to chains for pulling and towing.
A tow rope is much safer, however it is NOT safe. Anything that is put under strain as we see in pulling or towing, is holding a lot of stored (kinetic) energy that can be released unexpectedly. The steps you should consider taking, once you know your equipment is in good order and your two rope is also the right size and in good condition, is to protect your workers and equipment. The most dangerous places to be when pulling someone out who is good and truly stuck is in the cab and on the ground within the radius of the tow rope. These are the two places where the stored energy meets people and equipment should the rope, clevis or pin fail.
In order to slow down the release of energy should the pin, clevis or tow rope fail it needs to be muffled. The cheapest way a few producers have found to do this is with a child-sized sleeping bag or blanket. By draping these over the hitch you can absorb and muffle released energy should there be a fail during a tow or pull. Instead of the tow rope flying through the back window of the tractor or into a truck cab, it is slowed down, the energy dispersed and the danger reduced. (Reduced. Not removed.)
The safest way to get unstuck is to avoid getting stuck at all. It is also the cheapest. Consider your fields and yard each spring. Where do people tend to get stuck? Mark these areas and find alternate routes, rebuild roads or build up with gravel, ensure your operators know the warning signs of dangerous ground and avoid getting stuck. Keep your yard clean.