Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Program
Farm Youth Dies After Becoming Entangled In the Unloading Beaters of a Forage Wagon
A 17-year-old farm youth died after he became entangled in the unloading beaters of a forage wagon. The victim was working near a barn and used a tractor and a power-take-off (PTO) driven forage wagon to deliver forage to cows in a barn. The self-unloading wagon was equipped with two unloading beaters mounted across the front of it. The beaters broke apart the forage in the wagon as two chain conveyors on the floor of the wagon moved the forage to the front of the wagon. At the time of the incident, the forage wagon was nearly empty. One of the conveyor chains on the floor of the wagon had broken and as a result, the forage would not move forward toward the unloading beaters. As a result, the victim entered the forage wagon to shovel the contents from the wagon while the unloading beaters continued to operate.
The victim’s step-father was working inside the barn and heard
the victim scream. He ran outside and discovered the victim caught in
the beaters. He stopped the tractor’s PTO drive and then ran to
the farmhouse and placed a 911 call. He returned to the victim who told
him that he leaned over the top beater to determine if he needed to shovel
any more of the forage from the wagon. When he leaned over the top beater
bar, his jacket became caught in one of the tines of the top beater.
On February 17, 2005, MN FACE investigators were notified of a farm work-related fatality that occurred on February 14, 2005. The county sheriff’s department was contacted and a copy of their report and pictures of the machine involved in this incident was obtained. The report and pictures of the machine provided a detailed description of this incident which was not witnessed. A site investigation was not conducted by a MN FACE investigator. During MN FACE investigations, incident information is obtained from a variety of sources such as law enforcement agencies, county coroners and medical examiners, employers, coworkers and family members.
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On the day of the incident, a 17-year-old farm youth was working with his step-father near a barn doing evening farm chores. The youth was alone outside the barn and used a tractor and a power-take-off (PTO) driven self-unloading forage wagon to deliver forage to a herd of cows in the barn. The self-unloading wagon was connected to the tractors power-take-off shaft and when the PTO drive mechanism was engaged, it operated two unloading beaters mounted across the front of the wagon. The unloading beaters were positioned in a vertical configuration one above the other and spaced about 12 inches apart. The beaters broke apart the load of forage as two apron chains that were also driven by the tractors PTO shaft moved the forage to the front of the wagon. Each unloading beater consisted of three steel bars mounted to a center shaft and each bar was equipped with tines spaced approximately 10-12 inches apart along the length of each bar. The tines were approximately 3-4 inches long and as the beaters rotated, the tines would tear apart the forage and cause it to tumble from the wagon.
The apron chains moved across the floor of the wagon from the back to the front when the power-take-off was engaged. The chains divided the wagon floor in half along a line extending along the middle of the wagon floor from the front to the back. Each apron chain consisted of two long parallel chains connected by cross bars that were approximately 18 to 20 inches apart. A third apron chain was located across the front of the wagon and beneath the unloading beaters. It transferred the forage from the wagon as it fell from the unloading beaters.
At the time of the incident, the forage wagon was nearly empty and contained only 4-6 inches of forage in the bottom of the wagon. One of the apron chains on the floor of the wagon had broken and as a result, the last of the forage in the wagon would not moved forward toward the unloading beaters. Since the contents of the wagon no longer moved forward due to the broken chain, the victim entered the forage wagon to shovel the contents onto the unloading apron chain located across the front of the wagon while the unloading beaters continued to operate.
The victims step-father was working nearby inside the barn and suddenly
heard the victim scream. He ran outside and discovered the victim caught
in the unloading beaters. After stopping the tractor’s PTO drive
that powered the beaters, he ran to the farm house and placed a 911 call
for help and then returned to the victim. The victim told his step-father
that he leaned over the top beater to determine if he needed to shovel
the remaining forage from the wagon. He stated that as he leaned over
the top beater bar, his jacket became hooked by one of the tines of the
top beater and he was pulled into and between the two rotating beaters.
This was the third farm work-related fatality involving a forage wagon that has been investigated by the MN FACE program. In each case, the victim became entangled in the rotating beaters of the wagon after entering the forage wagon box while the tractor’s power-take-off (PTO) was still engaged. This incident involved a 17-year-old farm youth while the other incidents, MN FACE Case 96MN004 involved a 30-year-old male farmer and MN FACE Case 96MN039 involved a 50-year-old male farmer.
Cause of Death
The cause of death on the death certificate was extensive hemorrhage, upper and lower extremities and intra-abdominal due to blunt force and shearing trauma due to farm accident.
Recommendation #1: Operators should, whenever possible disengage the power-take-off before dismounting from a tractor.
Discussion: Entanglements in power-take-off shafts and rotating machinery components can be prevented if a tractor’s power-take-off is disengaged before operators dismount from the tractor. Although this may not be possible in certain cases where a tractor is used to power a stationary machine, it should always be done when the operator is using portable machines, such as the forage wagon in this incident. The design of forage wagons such as the one involved in this incident requires that the beaters be unguarded such that the forage in the wagon is able to come in direct contact with them as the forage is unloaded. Since it is not possible to guard the beaters without hindering the proper operation of this type of wagon, it is crucial that the tractor’s PTO has been disengaged whenever it is necessary for someone to enter this type of wagon. Although it could not be determined exactly why the power-take-off was engaged while the victim was in the forage wagon, a general safe work practice that operators should follow is to disengage the power-take-off whenever possible before dismounting from a tractor.
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