Tips for Safe Hay Baling

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click image to zoom As growers finish their first cutting of hay crops, now is a good time to do preventative maintenance tasks that can boost farm profits and protect farm workers, says a safety research associate and lecturer from Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Completing some preventative maintenance tasks on balers and other farm machinery can help lessen the potential for delay down the line because of a breakdown, said Andrew “Dewey” Mann, safety research associate for Ohio State University Extension’s Agricultural Safety and Health program.

OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the college.

“We all know that farmers have a list of at least 10 things to do at any given time,” Mann said. “We want to help remind growers about taking the time to do maintenance that will help alleviate stress and help prevent breakdowns prior to the next hay harvest.

“Our goal is to provide a reminder to help people keep safety high on their list of priorities.”

As of the week ended June 15, 68 percent of first cutting alfalfa hay had been completed, while 57 percent of other hay has been harvested in Ohio, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

“With the lack of heavy rain, hay baling is progressing rapidly and pastures are growing well,” the agency said in a statement.

When dealing with hay crops, it is especially important to take safety precautions, considering that hay crops are typically grown on rough, steep or other ground unsuitable for row crops, he said.

“Given the nature of how efficient baling needs to be completed in order to beat changing weather conditions that could devalue crops, we still need to stress the importance of ensuring growers take the necessary steps to maintain safety,” Mann said. “No matter how large or valuable your crop is, it is not worth risking an unnecessary injury or death.

“It’s important to remember to communicate safe practices daily, slow down and use good judgment.”

Growers also need to keep in mind the requirement for workers ages 15 and younger to have completed a tractor and machinery certification program before operating such equipment, unless they are doing so for their parent or guardian, Mann said.

Tips to remember when completing maintenance on hay equipment include:

  • Replace broken or worn parts:
  • A baler with broken or missing pick-up tines, loose belts or chains and other damaged parts will not feed material properly into the bale chamber.
  • Bent or loose blades on rotary cutters are more prone to thrown objects.
  • Ensure proper clearance between crimping rollers on mower conditioners.
  • Always lubricate sprockets and chains when the machine is turned off.
  • Whether in the shop or out in the field, always ensure the PTO is disengaged and the engine shut off before dismounting to service or adjust the equipment.
  • With mowers and square balers, wait until all components have stopped moving.
  • Always lock and block the rear gate if you must be underneath it.
  • Be prepared for a fire. Carry a Class ABC fire extinguisher on all tractors. Ensure that all are charged and in working order.
  • Keep all shields and safety guards in place. Replace immediately after maintenance is complete -- don't wait until you are ready to go to the field.


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