Table of Contents | Print This Page

Section 2: Farm Equipment


The Occupational Health and Safety Guidelines for Farming Operations in Ontario were developed to highlight specific, and sometimes unique and unusual hazards on farms. They were jointly prepared by representatives of the farming community, the Farm Safety Association (now Workplace Safety and Prevention Services), the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the Ministry of Labour.

The purpose of the guidelines is to help employers, supervisors and workers on farms recognize hazards and determine the ways they may best comply with their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), and the relevant regulations. The guidelines provide general information to those in the workplace to help them identify specific hazards and dangerous situations. The guidelines may also provide the workplace parties with suggestions to consider in determining how to protect worker health and safety and to prevent injuries.

It is important to understand that the guidelines do not replace the laws that are in place. Employers, supervisors and workers on farms have responsibilities and rights under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the following three regulations under the Act: Regulation for Farming Operations, O. Reg. 414/05, Critical Injury Defined, R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 834 and Occupational Health and Safety Awareness and Training, O. Reg. 297/13. The requirements in the OHSA and these three regulations must be complied with.

Employers have a legal obligation to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of workers; and, supervisors and workers must take appropriate steps to identify and address all workplace hazards. The guidelines are a starting point for the workplace parties to think about how to fulfill their obligations under the OHSA. Following the recommendations suggested in these guidelines does not relieve the workplace parties of their obligations to comply with the OHSA.

This is the first edition of the guidelines. They will be reviewed and updated on an ongoing basis, as needed, and expanded as new production methods and technologies emerge.

Farm equipment may include any mechanical or electrical device that transmits or modifies energy to perform a variety of tasks. Examples of farm equipment include balers, conveyors, manure spreaders, bale choppers, mowers, shredders, harvesters, grinders, blowers, power washers and augers. Hand tools are not covered in this section.

Section One, Tractors and Other Self-Propelled Equipment, addressed the hazards of operating a tractor with an attachment. This section addresses the hazards specific to the attachment. The following topics are covered:


Power Takeoff (P.T.O.):
A shaft that allows transmission of power from a farm tractor to a piece of equipment attached to it.

General Responsibilities

  1. The employer shall provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker operating farm equipment, to protect the health and safety of the worker.
  2. Equipment must be maintained in good condition. All safety devices should be operational and maintenance records should be kept.
  3. Farm equipment should be used for its intended purpose, as specified by the manufacturer and outlined in the operator's manual.
  4. If farm equipment is modified, the employer and the operator should take into account how the modifications affect the safe operation of the equipment.
  5. All safety decals attached to a piece of farm equipment should be visible and free from obstructing material. Damaged or missing safety decals should be replaced with new ones if available.
  6. A lockout procedure should be developed and used for each piece of equipment to ensure that power cannot be engaged during repairs or adjustments to the equipment. (See Guideline on Lockout Procedures)
  7. Shields and guards should be in place on all farm equipment as per the manufacturer's recommendations.
  8. Equipment should be locked out before shields or guards are removed for maintenance purposes. Shields and guards should be re-installed before work is resumed.
  9. If using a shield or guard prevents a piece of farm equipment from performing its intended purpose, the employer should guard against the hazard as much as possible, and use additional measures to protect workers. Examples of such additional measures include installing a warning device such as an alarm, developing alternate work procedures that would allow the task to be performed safely, or providing personal protective equipment.

Hazards Associated with Equipment

Although there are many different types of farm machinery, they tend to have similar characteristics and parts, such as:

  • cutting edges,
  • gears,
  • chains,
  • levers,
  • revolving shafts, and
  • rotating blades.

The main hazards associated with exposure to these parts are described below.

Shear/Cutting Points

  1. Shear points are created when the edges of two objects are moved close enough together to cut a material, as in the case of a pair of shears or an auger.
  2. Cutting points are created when a single object moves forcefully or rapidly enough to cut, as in the case of a sickle blade.
  3. They are hazards because of their cutting force, and because they often move so rapidly that they may not be visible.
  4. Workers should be aware of shear points, and shields or guards should be used to prevent exposure or access.

Pinch Points

  1. Pinch points are formed when two objects move together and at least one of them is moving in a circle. For example, the point at which a belt runs onto a pulley is a pinch point. Belt drives, chain drives and gear drives are other examples of pinch points in power transmission devices.
  2. Body parts such as fingers, hands and feet can be caught directly in pinch points, or they may be drawn into the pinch points by loose clothing that becomes entangled.
  3. Workers should be aware of pinch points, and shields or guards should be used to prevent exposure or access.

Wrap Points

  1. Rotating shafts are the most common source of wrap point accidents, although any exposed machine part that rotates can be a wrap point. Clothing or hair can catch on a rotating part.
  2. The ends of shafts that protrude beyond bearings are also dangerous. Universal joints, keys and fastening devices can also snag clothing.
  3. Entanglement with a wrap point can pull you into the machine, or clothing may become so tightly wrapped that you are crushed or suffocated.
  4. Workers operating machinery should be aware of wrap points and wear clothing that will not become entangled in moving components. In addition, where possible, shields or guards should be used to prevent access.

Crush Points

  1. Crush points are created when two objects move toward each other or one object moves toward a stationary one. For example,
    • hitching a tractor to an attachment may create a potential crush point; or,
    • failure to block up equipment safely can result in a crushing injury.
  2. Crushing injuries most commonly occur to fingers. To prevent a crushing injury, workers should:
    • be aware of crush points and avoid potentially dangerous situations;
    • arrange the hitch point so that a tractor can be backed into position without a worker being in the path;
    • wait until a tractor has stopped before stepping into the hitching area; and,
    • block any machine that can move before working under or near it.

Pull-In Points

  1. Pull-in points usually occur when plant material or other obstacles become stuck in feed rolls or other machinery parts, preventing the mechanism from operating. A worker trying to free such material without shutting down or locking out the power can be rapidly pulled into the mechanism when the material is freed.
  2. Equipment operators should always shut off the power and use a lockout procedure before attempting to clear plugged equipment. (See Guideline on Lockout Procedures)

Free-Wheeling Parts

  1. Many machine parts continue to spin after the power is either shut off or locked out. Even if equipment is locked out, no repair or maintenance work should be started until all parts have stopped moving. This may take as long as 2--2.5 minutes. Examples of free-wheeling parts include:
    • cutter heads of forage harvesters,
    • hammer mills of feed grinders,
    • rotary mower blades,
    • fans, and
    • flywheels.


  1. Springs are commonly used to help lift equipment such as shock absorbers, and to keep belts tight and may harbour potentially dangerous stored energy.
  2. Springs under compression will expand with great force when released while those that are stretched will contract rapidly when released.
  3. A worker should know in which direction a spring will move and how it might affect another machine part when released, and stay out of its path.

Hydraulic Systems

  1. Hydraulic systems store considerable energy. They are used to:
    • lift and change the position of attachments;
    • operate hydraulic motors; and,
    • assist in steering and braking.
  2. Leaks from hydraulic systems are a serious hazard because of the high pressure and temperature of the fluid contained in the system. Even fine jets of hydraulic fluid can burn or pierce skin and tissue. Workers should:
    • never inspect hydraulic hoses with their hands;
    • wear long sleeves, heavy gloves and safety glasses when checking for leaks;
    • follow the instructions in the operator's manual because the specific procedures for servicing these systems are very important for one's safety.
  3. Where appropriate, a properly qualified and certified mechanic should perform repairs and maintenance.
  4. Work should not be performed under raised hydraulic equipment.

Previous | Next