Round bale hay safety

It’s haying season and most producers are “making hay while the sun shines.” Round balers are

very popular and effective, but don’t forget to be safe when working to put up your hay.

A round baler involves multiple moving parts and the potential for an entanglement incident. At

the beginning of each baling season, review the operations and safety precautions in the

owner's manual, completely inspect the baler, and make any needed repairs. The owner's

manual should provide the necessary guidelines to determine the correct size tractor to use with

the baler to maintain proper control of the round baler. When choosing a tractor for baling,

choose one that is equipped with a rollover protective structure (ROPS) and always securely

buckle the seat belt.

Entanglement incidents present the greatest risk during baling activity. These types of incidents

are avoidable if the operator remembers that entanglement occurs when the machine is running

and the decision is made to leave the tractor seat without shutting down the tractor. Therefore,

the operator should never leave the tractor seat until the power take-off (PTO) is disengaged,

the tractor is shut down, the key is removed from the ignition and all moving parts have stopped


Machine maintenance helps prevent entanglement opportunities as well. Keep all shields in

place on the PTO driveline and all other moving parts. In order to reduce the risk of an injection

injury, relieve the hydraulic pressure before disconnecting all hydraulic lines and use a piece of

cardboard when examining the lines for leaks and malfunctioning parts. Always use hydraulic

cylinder lock-out devices when working beneath raised baler components.

Hay fields are not always flat so there are several important things to remember when baling on

uneven or hilly terrain. Travel slowly on this type of terrain and avoid holes in the field and

drop-offs. Round balers have a high center of gravity and could potentially tip sideways if its

wheel goes into a ditch or hole. During the baling process, avoid making sharp turns with the

baler because the tractor wheels could hit the tongue of the baler and cause instability. When

ejecting a bale on a hilly terrain, eject the bale so that it is perpendicular to the slope to reduce

the risk of the round bale rolling down the slope. Because of the susceptibility of fires from baler

belt friction and possible overheating of equipment, equip your tractor with a 10 pound (ABC)

dry chemical fire extinguisher.

Specialized bale wagons and trailers that carry multiple bales at a time have several

advantages such as time savings, reduced risk for overturns, and reduced risk of overloading

the tractor's hydraulic system. Choose an appropriate tractor that can handle and stop the

wagon/trailer with the added weight of the bales and ensure that the wagon is properly hitched

to the tractor's drawbar. This means using a safety pin and a safety chain. If transporting round

bales on a public roadway, follow all traffic laws regarding wide loads and to properly secure the

bales on the wagon/trailer with straps with a tensile strength of 1.5 times the load. The trailer or

wagon should be highly visible with a SMV emblem, reflectors, and working warning lights. If

using a pick-up truck to tow the load, check to make sure the truck has the necessary braking

power to stop the load. If the load is wider than the tractor or truck and reduces visibility,

consider using an escort vehicle to travel behind the load. Pull off the road at a safe spot to

allow traffic to pass. Do not wave traffic around as this places the liability on the tractor or truck

operator should an incident occur.

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