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Preventing Deaths While Moving Large Hay Bales with Tractors Focus of New Recommendations

NIOSH Update:

Contact: Fred Blosser (202) 401-3749
August 20, 2001

Ways to prevent death and serious injury to farmers while moving heavy bales by tractor are recommended in a new bulletin by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Large bales may weigh 750 pounds or more. Because of their size, they may unbalance a tractor on sloping or uneven ground, causing the equipment to roll over on the operator. Also, inadequately secured bales carried on a front-end loader pose the risk of falling backward, crushing the operator.

From 1992 to 1998, 42 farmers died in such incidents, NIOSH reports in the new bulletin, “NIOSH Hazard ID 13, Hazards Associated with Using Farm Tractors to Move Large Bales.”

Based on investigations of 11 fatalities by state researchers in Minnesota (supported by the NIOSH Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation program), the new NIOSH document recommends several precautions, including these:

  • Farmers should make sure that their equipment is suitable for transporting large bales, in good repair, counter-weighted properly, and able to carry the load safely and securely.
  • Tractors should be equipped with roll-over protective structures and seat belts, and the seat belts should be used.
  • When moving up or down sloping land, tractor operators should keep the bale on the up-slope end of the tractor and place the attachment at the lowest possible position.
  • Before beginning work, the operator should plan the safest travel path; whenever possible, the operator should use paths that are flat, firm, free of obstructions, and at a safe distance from holes, ditches, and ruts.

NIOSH works closely with farm organizations, equipment manufacturers, other agricultural safety and health professionals, and other state and federal agencies to prevent injury, illness, and death in farm work. Copies of “NIOSH Hazard ID 13, Hazards Associated with Using Farm Tractors to Move Large Bales,” DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2001-146, are available on the NIOSH web site. Copies also are available by calling the NIOSH toll-free information number, 1-800-35-NIOSH (1-800-356-4674).

Additional information about NIOSH research and recommendations for preventing injury and illness in agricultural work also is available from the information number and from the NIOSH web page .