Be careful around PTOs

Since the 1930s, power takeoffs (PTOs) have helped farmers harness the power of tractors to drive a variety of implements. The engine powers a shaft that spins at hundreds of revolutions per minute. Over the years, PTOs have revolutionized American agriculture, but also became one of the most deadly farm hazards.

With the shaft spinning at 540 rpm or faster, a PTO can wrap the operator around the shaft far faster than a person with average reaction time can hit a kill switch or pull a lever.

People cannot react fast enough to pull away from a spinning shaft, and most clothing is strong enough to pull a person into the shaft. Very serious injury and frequently death is the end result of these incidents.

Reaction time also slows with age, declining physical condition, use of medication, lack of sleep and stress.

Power shafts are usually constructed with a square shaft inserted into a housing or casing. It is important that at least 5½ inches of the sliding shaft remain in the housing when the power shaft is connected to the power source. This reduces the possibility of the shafts separating while the equipment is in motion. If the shaft splits, the portion of the shaft connected to the power source is free to whirl at high speeds, endangering the worker and equipment.

While most people think of PTO use in the summer months, many are used year round in livestock operation and to move water onto and off of farm fields for waterfowl or agricultural purposes.

Here are some best practices to stay safe around PTOs:
• Shut off all equipment before getting close to the PTO.
• Pull up long hair and braids when working around equipment. Put hair under a hat for best results. Remove jewelry, earrings and scarves when working around PTOs.
• Do not wear clothes with loose sleeves, frayed edges or drawstrings. Avoid long shoelaces.
• Keep the safety shaft, master and implement shields and guards in place, even after repairs.
Too often, farmers do not replace shields after repair.
• Stay clear of moving parts. As a good rule-of-thumb, maintain a distance that’s at least equal
to your height between you and the PTO.
• Shut off augers and machinery equipped with belt and chain drives and rotating pulleys before
working on them.
• Do not let children on or near a tractor.
• Walk around tractors. Never step over a rotating shaft.

As always, the main keys to safety are awareness and not getting in a hurry or taking shortcuts.

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