Baler Safety

Bales and balers can be deadly if you don’t put safety first.

By Tharran Gaines

Never unload a round bale on a steep slope. Never travel with bales raised higher than necessary.

Never unload a round bale on a steep slope. Never travel with bales raised higher than necessary.

We all know the window for getting the best quality hay put up can be very narrow at times, tempting us to take shortcuts. Just remember, no crop, no matter how large or valuable, is worth injury or worse.

That said, it never hurts to review safety on the farm. Here, then, are a few safety rules that should be followed every time you bale hay and handle bales.

• Before getting off the tractor to inspect the baler, disengage the PTO, shut off the engine, and set the parking brake.

• When working with small or large square balers, remember that the flywheel keeps the machine operating for several minutes after power is disengaged. Never work on a baler until the flywheel has completely stopped.

• When working on a round baler, always lock and/or block the rear tailgate if you must be underneath it. This is to keep it from closing prematurely, resulting in injury.

• Make certain that both the tractor and the attachment are able to safely handle the weight and size of large bales. The loader should have a working load rating that exceeds the size and weight of the bales.

• Never unload a round bale on a steep slope where the bale is likely to roll downhill.

• Never move round bales in a front-end loader bucket. An unstable bale can roll off the front-end loader, down the front-end loader arms and onto the tractor operator.

• Always use a grapple hook with a front-end loader to transport large bales, and only use a tractor with a cab or a four-post rollover protective structure.

• Never travel with bales raised higher than necessary. This raises the tractor’s center of gravity, making it more likely to roll over on uneven terrain, or during sudden stops and turns.

• Carry a Class ABC fire extinguisher. Hot, dry weather conditions, friction from belts and chains, and readily combustible hay can lead to fire.

• Make sure all guards and shields are in place.

• Keep the baler well-maintained to reduce safety risks. That includes replacing broken or worn pickup tines, replacing worn belts and keeping the twine feeding system in good repair.