Safe Combine Operation During Harvest

Kent McGuire – OSU Ag Safety and Health Coordinator

As we continue to progress further into harvest season, the continuous activity, diminished daylight and stresses that can be associated with harvest can often lead to agricultural related injuries. It takes multiple pieces of equipment working simultaneously to have an efficient harvest season and no piece of equipment is more important than the combine.  It is important to keep safety in the forefront when operating or working around the combine and combine safety starts with the operator.  Combine operators should consider these guidelines during harvest:

- Follow the procedures in the operator’s manual for safe operation, maintenance, dealing with blockages and other problems.

- Check all guards are in position and correctly fitted before starting work. Do not run the combine with the guards raised or removed.

- Keep equipment properly maintained and insure equipment has adequate lighting for working in low light conditions

- Reduce the risk of falls by ensuring access ladders, steps, or standing platforms are clean and free of mud or debris.

- Never carry passengers on the combine unless seated in a passenger seat and do not mount or dismount the combine when it is moving.

- Make sure to keep cab windows clean and mirrors are properly adjusted. Operator vision to the rear may be poor so be particularly careful when reversing.

- Keep the cab door shut to keep out dust and reduce noise. Ensure any pedestrians are clear of the combine before moving.

- Be alert to your surroundings. Know where other equipment is being positioned and be observant to individuals who may be walking around the equipment. Maintain eye contact and communicate your intentions with the other person.

- When unloading the combine on the move, you will need to plan and coordinate your movements carefully to match the tractor/grain cart working with you.

-  Remember the hazards posed by straw choppers and spreaders – allow adequate rundown time before approaching the rear of the combine.

- Do not operate the machine beyond its capacity or overload it.

- Regularly clean straw and chaff deposits from the engine compartment and around belts or pulleys to reduce risk of fire.

- Carry suitable fire extinguishers. These should be regularly checked and properly maintained/ serviced.

- Use extreme caution when working around overhead power lines, especially when extending the unloading auger or bin extensions.

- Follow correct procedures when transferring the header on and off the header cart, or working under the header (use the manufacturer’s safety supports).

- Utilize safe travel routes between fields, and take into account overhead height and roadway width clearances. 

- Pre-plan road travel to account for potential problems with automobile traffic. Utilize escort vehicles when needed.

For more information about the OSU Ag Safety visit or contact Kent McGuire, OSU Agricultural Safety & Health, at or 614-292-0588.