Ten Tips for a Safe Spring

Avoid hazards and never weld near a battery, especially if it's being charged, since the battery can blow up. (DTN/Progressive Farmer photo by Jim Patrico)

DTN/The Progressive Farmer's Ask The Mechanic Columnist Steve Thompson answers readers' mechanical questions. You can read Steve's columns every month in The Progressive Farmer's digital edition (click on the "Resources" tab to find the magazine and inside, Steve's Ask The Mechanic columns).

If you have any questions for him, you can contact Steve at: Write Steve Thompson at Ask The Mechanic, 2204 Lakeshore Dr., Suite 415, Birmingham, AL 35209, or email:

As spring nears, Steve shares safety tips to keep farmers safe.


In all the work and long hours of planting season, it's all too easy to take the shortcuts that sometime have long-term consequences. Here are 10 safety tips drawn from my real life, life on the farm. You might notice that fire is a fairly common theme here.

1. A portable safety light is a must when working on equipment. However, it can be a safety hazard. Always make sure the bulb is enclosed securely in a cover. That cover, for some reason, always wants to come open. The hot filament of a broken bulb can ignite spilled fuel or oil, quickly setting your clothes on fire.

2. Always be careful when hooking or unhooking an implement to or from the tractor. Keep your feet from under the tongue of the implement. Never trust a jack. Most jacks are not strong enough to withstand side-to-side, or fore-and-aft, movement of an implement, especially if the machine is on uneven ground. When pulling up on the hitch pin, you are not in a position to move quickly. If your foot is under the tongue, it is in danger of getting crushed. Wear "smart-toed shoes" when hooking or unhooking equipment.

3. Fumes hazardous to your health can be generated when a torch heats paint during the process of welding or soldering. Always remove any paint in and around the area to be heated or welded. Using an approved respirator is the safest way to avoid breathing dust. When removing the paint with solvent or stripper, wash with soap and water before welding. After all flammable material is removed from the work area, wait 15 minutes. I know there is always a rush to get a machine up and running, but a fire tends to add unwanted time to a "quick" repair. More, the paint residue trapped in your lungs is a serious health issue. Paint always looks better on your tractor than in your lungs.

4. The replacement part for the PTO pushpin that used to lock the implement's yoke to your tractor's PTO shaft may be difficult to find because the pushpin has been redesigned. Older American (sometimes called "old-style") PTO pushpin keepers can be a safety hazard because the squeeze clip that used to secure the lock in place can easily snag clothing or fly off, turning the implement's driveline loose. Be careful around PTO drivelines.

5. Be careful when changing the spacing on the front wheels of a tractor. Never put your finger in the hole of the two-piece axle to push out a cap screw. When one cap screw is removed, the axle halves can separate in a shearing motion. A friend of mine tried to push out a cap screw with his finger and the axle shifted. He has three fingers remaining to tell that story.

6. Be careful not to open too many drawers on your rollaway tool box at once (like I have), or your box can lose its center of gravity and fall forward or even on you. The unlatched drawer(s) many times will continue to open on their own, and when the box begins to fall, all you can do is get out of the way—quickly. This safety hazard increases when you are moving the box, and a wheel encounters an object on the floor -- like a rock, bolt or nut. Don't lose your drawers! Keep them locked up.

7. Be careful when working with electrical wires on your equipment. Just because the meter says 12 volts DC doesn't mean it can't burn up wires and start a fire. A little, bitty wire will read around 12 volts, and a large battery cable will read around 12 volts. However, the larger wire can carry many more amps, and uncontrolled amps can easily start a fire. Low resistance and high amps are dangerous, especially if the wires aren't fuse-protected -- such as is the case with a battery cable end that comes in contact with a ground or another voltage source. Remove, disconnect or cover exposed battery cables before you work.

8. Have you ever been slapped by one of those long, compressed air blowguns with a tip on the end? Wow! It's like jet engine on super fuel. The blowguns that mount directly to the air hose and are only about 5 inches long are very easy to handle. But, if you buy one of those long ones to blow out radiators or the cab of your tractor, be careful with it. When you grab the lever, hold on tight. That thing will come up and slap you in the forehead before you can duck. The length of the blowgun gives this jet-propelled object more leverage than your hand can handle.

9. I know it is necessary at times to clean the wiring harness pins at a wiring harness connection. But be careful. From experience, I can tell you that the electronics connection cleaner can be highly flammable. So, after you spray on the cleaner, clean the corroded pins with a nylon or plastic brush. I used a steel wire brush once, and the cleaner caught on fire when I raked across the connector. Because the harness can have a hot wire and a ground in it, the wire brush allowed the terminals to arc, setting the cleaner on fire.

10. Never weld near a battery, especially if it's being charged. The battery can blow up. I have acid stains on my shop wall to prove this one true.



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