Tractors are essential pieces of machinery for any agricultural business. In California, the agriculture industry is one of the most essential sectors for the state’s economy. California farmers supply the rest of the country with many different types of crops. There is tremendous pressure on those who work in the agriculture industry to maximize output and productivity throughout the year, especially during the growing and harvesting seasons. While farmers across California rely on their tractors for many reasons, it is vital for anyone who uses this type of equipment to understand the dangers tractors often present. Agricultural industry accidents can cause catastrophic or even fatal injuries.
If you work in agriculture and use tractors on a regular basis, you likely use these machines for different jobs, from hauling tillage and crop yields to towing machinery to prepare for a harvest or to ready the earth for new crop planting. It’s essential to understand how these devices can cause injuries and how to prevent these injuries from occurring.
How Tractor Accidents Happen
Any agricultural business owner and farmer must know how to safely operate and maintain the tractors they use every day. These devices require consistent care and maintenance to ensure they operate efficiently and safely for all applications. It is also vital for anyone who uses equipment designed to attach to a tractor to understand how to attach these pieces of equipment to their tractors securely and operate them as safely as possible.
Tractor accidents occur for many reasons. Some of the most common include:
- Rollover accidents. Tractors are heavy equipment designed to traverse uneven terrain, but unexpected ditches and weak patches of ground can catch a tractor’s wheel and throw the tractor off balance. When a tractor rolls over, the operator is not the only one who could suffer an injury. Many agricultural operations require working in teams, so a tractor rollover accident could easily harm more than one person.
- Runover accidents. Modern tractors have many safety features but still require their operators to pay close attention to their surroundings. If a tractor must traverse an overgrown area or any location with poor visibility, nearby farmhands could be injured if the tractor operator does not notice them in time to avoid a collision. Tractors’ wheels are much larger and heavier than standard wheels, so even a partial runover can result in devastating injuries.
- Risky older equipment. Running any agricultural business or farm requires maintaining the equipment used each day. Older tractors can sometimes experience mechanical failures that can cause injuries, and farmers who rely on outdated tractors may be using vehicles that do not comply with current safety regulations.
- Power takeoff entanglements. The power takeoff is the system that connects a tractor to an attached piece of equipment, supplying that equipment with power. The stub that transfers power rotates very fast. If a farmhand comes in contact with the rotating stub, they can easily sustain very serious entanglement injuries.
Anyone who operates a tractor must understand that these vehicles are designed for a specific purpose, not road use. Therefore, tractors lack the basic safety features found on typical passenger vehicles and require specific skills from their operators. When tractor users are negligent or operate these machines without proper skill and knowledge, very serious accidents can occur.
How to Prevent Tractor Accidents
If you or your employees use tractors for the day-to-day operations on your farm, it’s vital to understand the risks of using these vehicles and how to prevent accidents. While it is not possible to anticipate every risk that one might encounter while using a tractor, a few basic safety tips can limit your risk of sustaining a serious tractor accident.
First, always ensure a tractor is fully functional before using it. All tractors require regular inspection, and any maintenance issues with a tractor require immediate action to limit the risk of a mechanical failure causing an injury. If you notice a problem with a tractor, fix it before attempting to use the compromised tractor to limit the risk of a tractor accident.
Training is also important for preventing tractor accidents. Anyone who intends to operate a tractor should know how these vehicles function and how to operate them safely. Tractor operators must also possess situational awareness and stay alert at all times while operating tractors. Make sure every tractor operator knows how to use the safety features included on the tractor, such as safety belts and rollover protection equipment. Tractor operators must also understand the importance of vigilance at all times so they can spot uneven ground, pitfalls, and nearby farmhands to prevent accidents.
No one should ever operate a tractor while fatigued or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This is not only incredibly dangerous for both the operator and others around them but also illegal. If you hire farmhands to work your land and allow them to use tractors, make sure they all understand proper tractor safety and refrain from illegal behaviors like driving under the influence.
Finally, stay updated on the latest tractor safety regulations and ensure all of your tractors are compliant. You may have older tractors that no longer comply with applicable safety regulations and pose significant risks. Additionally, if you knowingly operate an outdated tractor and experience an accident, you may have little to no room to take legal action of any kind against the manufacturer.
One of the best things any tractor owner can do to limit the risk of a tractor accident is to perform a thorough inspection of the tractor before each use. Some of the aspects of the tractor that require inspection in this manner include:
- The wheels of the tractor.
- The tractor’s oil level.
- The radiator.
- The air filtration system.
- The tractor’s fuel.
- The fire extinguisher. Every tractor should have a fire extinguisher in the event a fire breaks out while operating or refueling the tractor.
Conducting a check of these aspects of the tractor is one of the best methods of preventing operational hazards and limiting the risk of an accident due to a mechanical failure. Never attempt to operate a tractor if you notice any mechanical issues during a preliminary check.
If you intend to operate a tractor with any type of attached equipment, always remember the risk of power takeoff entanglements. The power takeoff on a tractor should have a protective tube that covers the rotating power takeoff stub. However, if this protective tube is damaged or removed, it is not wise to operate the tractor until the power takeoff has appropriate protection to prevent entanglement injuries.
The next phase of your pre-operation checklist should be a thorough inspection of the area in which you intend to operate the tractor. For example, if it rained recently, mud and displaced earth can cause stability issues or even result in a rollover accident. If you need to traverse any slopes, it’s wise to set the tractor wheels as far apart as possible to provide greater stability and traction. Some areas may require the construction of temporary safety structures like bridges. In the event you must use any such structures, make sure they are sturdy and easily able to bear the weight of the tractor. Additionally, temporary bridges should have high edges that can prevent the tractor’s wheels from sliding off the sides.
Can I Take Legal Action for a Tractor Accident?
When a tractor accident happens, the victim will typically wonder about their options for legal recourse if they believe another party is responsible for the accident. If you determine that your recent tractor accident was the result of another party’s negligence, call our firm. An experienced tractor accident attorney can help you explore your available legal options and secure recovery for your damages. When it comes to determining liability for a tractor accident, there are several parties who may be fully or partially to blame for your injury:
- If your employer compelled you to use an outdated tractor that experienced an accident due to mechanical failure, you may have grounds for a civil claim against your employer. They would likely face fines for regulatory violations in addition to liability for your damages.
- If you sustained an injury due to a failure with a new tractor, it is possible for you to file a product liability claim against the manufacturer. If the tractor was defective in any way, an experienced attorney can guide you through product liability claim proceedings and hold the manufacturer accountable for your losses.
- If another employee injured you due to the negligent operation of the tractor, you likely have grounds to file a personal injury claim against the negligent employee.
It is vital to remember that if you suffer an injury at work, you have the ability to file a workers’ compensation claim. The workers’ compensation system can provide economic relief by covering your immediate medical bills and providing partial coverage for missing pay while you are home recovering from your injury. It is also possible to secure disability benefits if a tractor leaves you partially or fully disabled.
Ultimately, tractors are inherently dangerous vehicles that demand vigilance, training, and careful attention to detail at all times. In the event you or a loved one experience a tractor accident injury, you should secure legal representation as soon as possible for the best chance of securing compensation for your losses. Contact an experienced tractor accident attorney as soon as possible to start building your case.