Kent McGuire – OSU Ag Safety and Health Coordinator
One of the most common tasks on the farm is hitching or unhitching equipment. The two most common tractor-hitching methods use the drawbar or the 3-point hitch assembly. In either case, there can be multiple elements involved in the process including: connecting the implement using a hitch pin, adjusting a jack stand, attaching safety chains, connecting the PTO shaft, connecting hydraulic couplings, or plugging in electrical connections. Common injuries during hitching are caused by pinch points, crush points, blunt trauma, and run-over. General safety guidelines to follow when hitching or unhitching equipment include:
- Review the operator manual of the tractor and implement before use.
- Ensure hitch attachments match the tractor hitch category.
- Assess the situation and make a plan prior to attempting to hitch the implement.
- Ensure any bystanders are all clear of the tractor and implement.
- Place the tractor in a lower gear and lower the RPMs to reduce sudden quick movements when approaching or pulling away from the implement.
- When assisting the operator, keep visual contact and communicate with the operator at all times.
- The ground person should stay outside of the wheels of the tractor until the hitch and drawbar are lined up correctly.
- Leave yourself an escape route. Plan a travel path to get out of the way should the tractor lurch towards you.
- Once the hitch and implement are lined up, make sure the tractor is in PARK and shut off the engine before installing the hitch pin or completing additional hitching tasks such as connecting PTO or hydraulic lines.
- Use only approved hitch pins. If hitch pins are damaged or bent, take them out of service.
- Make sure the hitch pin is locked in place or secured with a hitch pin clip.
- Before connecting or disconnecting hydraulic lines, ensure the pressure has been released from the system.
- Use proper lifting techniques to reduce sprains / strains when lifting or moving the implement tongue.
- Ensure there is sufficient tongue weight to stabilize the implement when unhitching.
- Use an approved size tongue jack to support the tongue weight of the implement.
- Only use jacks that are attached to the tongue. Temporary jacks can kick out or fail with minimal implement movement.
- Remove all additional connections prior to pulling away from equipment.
- When unhitching on slopped areas, chock the wheels of the implement to prevent unwanted movement.