Preventing Overturns

Half of all farming and ranching accidents resulting in fatalities involve tractors.

Common Tractor Accidents

Tractor overturns or “roll overs” are the most common tractor incident resulting in serious injury or a fatality. Overturns are involved in almost half of all fatal tractor accidents.

Causes of Side Overturns

  • Turning uphill on a steep bank.
  • Turning a corner to rapidly.
  • Operating a tractor equipped with a front loader raised too high with a heavy load.
  • Towing loads (implements, wagons, etc.) too heavy or unstable loads.
  • Operating a tractor too close to a road or ditch bank.
  • Hitting holes, logs, stumps or bumps, particularly at high speeds.
  • Improper loading of tractor on transport vehicles.

Rear Overturns

Rear overturns happen very quickly (1 ½ seconds). In a rear overturn the tractor reaches the critical point of no return in three-fourths of a second, which means you cannot prevent the overturn. Human reaction time to respond varies from one half to 1 ½ seconds. Attempting to free a tractor that is stuck or frozen in the ground can result in a rear overturn.

Prevention of Overturns

Following are ways to prevent overturns and to keep the operator and others safe.

  1. Tractors should be equipped with rollover protective equipment such as ROPS (Roll Over Protective Structure) and seat belts.
  2. Hitch loads correctly.
  3. When working in an unfamiliar field or one that you have not been in for a while, stop the tractor and walk over potential problem areas of the field.
  4. Reduce speed on rough ground, on slopes, when turning or when driving onto roads.
  5. Avoid sudden turns, especially on sloping ground.
  6. Operate front-end loaders with the bucket as low as possible.
  7. Familiarize yourself with the tractor by reading the manual and going over the procedure thoroughly before operating.
  8. If the tractor has ROPS and the tractor starts to roll, do not jump off the tractor.
  9. When loading a tractor for transport, keep other workers out of the way until the tractor has been adequately secured to the transport.
  10. Operate the tractor at least as far away from the edge of a ditch as the ditch is deep (e.g. 3 feet deep, then 3 feet away).
  11. If the tractor is traversing a slope or traveling on the road with a sharp pavement incline, do not turn up slope.
  12. When working on sloping land, add weight to the front and widen the wheel base of the tractor.
  13. Do not ”pop” the clutch or give a sudden jerk when pulling out stuck vehicles or stumps, or when pulling any machinery.
  14. Keep the tractor in control at all times.
  15. Use the tractor only for what it was designed to be used.
  16. Lock brake pedals together before driving on roadways so that you won’t press a side brake and cause the tractor to suddenly swerve.
  17. Get plenty of rest before operating tractors

Excerpted from Farm Safety Series PNW 512.

Contact the WSU/Cooperative Extension office in your county to get a complete copy.

Compiled by John Fouts. For more information, contact WSU Extension, (509) 477-2048.