Extra care needed when pulling stuck machinery out of muddy fields


MADISON, Wis. – Spring fields are often wet fields, and people who operate tractors may become stuck in mud. It’s a good idea to review important points for pulling stuck machines safely before that happens, according to Mark A. Purschwitz, University of Wisconsin Extension agricultural safety and health specialist

Here are his safety pointers:

* Always hook to the drawbar of the pulling tractor. Never hitch above the drawbar, to the top link of the three-point hitch, for example. Hitching too high on the pulling tractor creates more leverage and the chain or cable may pull the tractor over backwards. These rear overturns are almost always fatal.

* Never attach planks or other objects to the rear wheels of the pulling tractor to prevent them from slipping. If the wheels cannot turn, the engine torque can lift the front end and result in a rear overturn.

* Always tighten the chain or cable slowly. Do not jerk on the stuck tractor, as something is more likely to break. Chains and cables should be attached so that they would fly toward the ground and not up in the air should something break.

For example, when using a horizontal clevis, bring the chain up through the bottom, so that if a hook breaks and the chain goes flying through the clevis, it will go downward. Hanging a coat, blanket, or small rug on the cable or chain will reduce the tendency to fly up.

* Nylon tow ropes must be used very carefully. They can stretch considerably and exert tremendous force on attachments. Always attach with a strong hook or clevis, and tighten the rope slowly.

Never get a “running start” or abruptly pull on the rope in order to jerk the stuck tractor out. The added force of the jerk can easily straighten or break a clevis or hook, which will then fly back at the operator at speeds as high as 600 to 700 miles per hour when the rope snaps back. More than one operator has been killed this way.

* If you need two tractors to pull out a stuck machine, try to attach each tractor to the stuck machine with a separate chain, and have them pull side-by-side. Both operators will need to coordinate their efforts.

If the two pulling tractors are hooked in line, with one tractor in front of the other, the force of both tractors must go through the chain between the second tractor and the stuck machine. This requires a very strong chain, hook, and clevis.

Finally, Purschwitz reminds tractor operators that the safest way to pull a stuck machine is always to use proper pulling equipment in good condition, attach it properly, and apply power slowly.


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