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Safely hitching and unhitching farm equipment

One of the most common tasks on the farm is hitching and unhitching equipment. However, hitching causes countless injuries on Canadian farms every year. Injuries can include everything from pinch and crush injuries to blunt trauma to runovers and even rollovers in the case of improper hitching. In terms of lost time and risk of injury or death, it’s essential to make sure all equipment is hitched properly.

Hitching an implement safely requires that the operator has knowledge of the equipment being connected; an understanding of hitching procedures; some skill (training and practice!); and a respect for safety.

Here are some basic hitching key safety points. Remember, these tips are not a substitute for the tractor and implement manufacturer’s operator manuals.

  • Before hitching any equipment, do a hazard assessment. Do you have all the tools you need? Are there hazards that may impede the job or cause you injury? Take a minute to look around and check out the situation before starting.
  • Whenever possible, try to hitch and unhitch on level ground. If there is a risk of rolling, block wheels before unhitching.
  • Hitch trailered equipment only to the tractor drawbar. Hitching elsewhere may displace the centre of gravity on the tractor and can cause a backward overturn.
  • Connect each farm wagon or piece of equipment to the towing vehicle by two separate means of attachment. Most commonly this will be a draw pin and chains however, it may also include a ball-hitch or three-point hitch. Use safety hitch pins (draw pins with cotter pins or other locking system) in every application.
  • Use properly rated safety chains with pins and balls of the proper size. The strength of a safety chain must be equal to the gross weight of the load being towed. Be sure no loose chains are dangling either from the drawbar or the implement.
  • Use locking pins on hydraulics.
  • Shut off the engine and wait for all moving parts to stop before unhitching implements or when making adjustments or performing maintenance.
  • Make sure all shields and guards are in good condition and properly installed.

Hitching mishaps can be avoided. It’s a matter of taking the time to do the job properly and safely.

For more information, see the Safe Implement Hitching Guide on the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association website. Find it online by Googling “CASA” and “Safe Implement Hitching.”

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