Power Take-Off Injuries

Power Take-Off injuries are very common on a farm.  According to the National Agricultural Safety Database, most PTO accidents occur when clothing and/or limbs are entangled in the rotating PTO shaft.

“Power Take Off” (PTO) is a term used to describe the process of transmitting power from one point to another.A PTO shaft, for example, is a cylindrical metal rod that attaches to a power source, such as a tractor, at one end and an attachment, such as a brush hog mower, at the other. When the tractor’s engine is running, power flows along the shaft. The shaft rotates at engine speed, transferring energy from the engine to the attachment.

Did You Know?

  • PTO shafts rotate at a speed of nine times per second! Even at lower speeds, however, operators can be injured. In fact, most PTO accidents occur when the PTO shaft is rotating at slower speeds.   

Causes of PTO Accidents

Along with clothing and limbs being caught in PTO shafts, there are many other causes for PTO accidents, including:

  • Many tractors, especially older models, lack PTO shields or have damaged or ineffective shields.
  • PTOs may be engaged without operator input. If a PTO shaft is attached to a moving tractor, for example, but is not also attached to an accessory, the rotating shaft may catch on ’ clothing, limbs or hair, dismembering, scalping or mutilating them.
  • Some farm equipment must be running in order for to make adjustments or correct malfunctions. Since PTO shafts rotate when the equipment they are attached to is operated, may be exposed to the rapidly spinning PTO shaft while examining their equipment.
  • Work practices such as clearing crop plugs may expose operators to PTO shafts.
  • Defective PTO shafts can disconnect from the machinery they are attached to. If so, they may swing and/or break off, striking anyone within range.

Power Take-Off Injuries Cases

Power Take-Off InjuriesAs the following Power Take-Off Injuries cases, documented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, show, contact with PTOs is frequently fatal:

  • A 70-year-old farmer was killed while mowing his pasture. He had completed mowing the grass around the top of a ridge and was beginning to mow the sloping sections when the PTO shaft connecting the rotary mower to the tractor came off. When he attempted to re-attach the shaft, the tractor began to roll down the steep slope; he lost control as it descended into the hollow. Apparently, he attempted to jump from the left side of the tractor, and his right foot became wedged between the high/low shift lever. As a result, his body went under the left rear tire and was caught between the tire, the ground, and a cement water basin. Emergency medical services pronounced the farmer dead at the scene.
  • A 24-year-old male farmer died after becoming entangled in the unguarded rotating driveline shaft of a manure spreader. The spreader was connected to a tractor equipped with a PTO, which powered the spreader driveline. The victim was working alone in the barnyard, replacing a bolt on the shaft. He apparently had completed this task and was standing on ice-covered soil near the rotating driveline. Then, he either slipped and fell onto the driveline or the rotating shaft caught his clothing. The PTO spun him around the driveshaft, where portions of his clothing were entangled and torn from his body. His wife approached the site of the incident when her husband had not returned to the farmhouse as expected, and found him entangled on the driveline. The tractor engine was not running. Emergency services pronounced the farmer dead at the scene.
  • A 17-year-old male farm worker died when he became trapped in a hay baler that caught fire. The farm worker was working alone baling dried wheat straw for hay. Evidence suggests that the round hay baler became jammed, and the clutch temporarily shut down the PTO. The worker apparently climbed on top of the baler to clear the jammed wheat straw by using his feet. The jam cleared, and the clutch put the PTO back into motion. The baler rollers suddenly started moving and trapped the workers’ leg inside the baler. The rollers and belts spinning around the hay started a fire. The worker died at the scene from smoke inhalation and burns.

Safety Tips for PTO Use

The National Safety Council publishes safety tips for PTO use. This included:

  • Keep all PTO shielding (including the master shield) in place.
  • Repair or replace damaged or missing shields.
  • Stay safely away from unshielded moving parts.
  • Watch your step when walking or working around a running machine.
  • Wear work clothing with no loose ends or strings to catch on or be caught by machinery.
  • Keep long hair under a cap or tied back to prevent it from being caught by the machinery.
  • Keep children out of the danger zone.
  • Stop the PTO when dismounting from the tractor.

Manufacturer Responsibility

Farm equipment is widely recognized as being unsafe. Designers and manufacturers of farm machinery have an obligation to make sure their products are as safe as possible. If you have been injured or lost a loved one due to a PTO accident resulting from an unshielded or defective PTO shaft, you may be entitled to compensation.

Manufacturers who design and distribute unsafe PTO shafts should pay you for the losses you suffer due to using them. You deserve compensation.

Compensation is Available

If you are an injured farm worker, you are not at fault!

If one of your family members has been injured or died as a result of a PTO accident, or if you have lost wages due to injury, you may be entitled to compensation. No matter what state you live in, what your work status is, or what your nationality is, help is available.

For a free and totally confidential consultation, contact us.

Learn More

The Dangers of the PTO

The Top 5 Dangers on a Farm

Power Take-Off Injuries: What You Should Know

Farm Injury Prevention for Adults