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Farmer Killed when Large Round Bale Tumbled from Forks in Loader Bucket

Iowa Case Report: 07IA081
Report Date: July 9, 2009

The following report is the product of our Cooperative State partner and is presented here in its original unedited form from the state. The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the individual Cooperative State partner and do not necessarily reflect the views or policy of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.


Late in 2007, a 60-year-old farmer died while operating his tractor when a large round bale of corn stalks spilled from the forks in the tractor’s front-end loader bucket onto him. The loader had been modified by the temporary installation of a 3-point hitch bale fork placed in the tractor’s loader bucket. The heel of the bale fork’s frame was loosely cradled against the inside curvature of the bucket. The vertical mast of the bale fork’s frame was chained at the top center of the loader bucket.

The farmer was trying to back up a slight, but slippery, incline with the cylindrical bale cradled endwise between the forks. He experienced loss of traction as the rear drive wheels of the tractor began to spin on the snow-covered ground. He raised the loader to transfer more weight to the rear wheels of the tractor to improve traction. Still unsuccessful, he began to shuttle the tractor forward and backward, shifting the transmission from forward to reverse gear again and again. Each time the tractor’s rear wheels lost traction he moved the tractor forward a short distance then tried backing once more. As he stopped going rearward and shifted to go forward, the bale spilled toward the operator’s station and onto the farmer.

The farmer was working alone at the time of the incident. His wife found him unresponsive, slumped forward and to the left of the tractor operator’s seat, with the bale resting on him. Local first responders, police, and ambulance personnel answered the call quickly. The farmer was pronounced dead at the scene.

Farmer Killed when Large Round Bale Tumbled from Forks in Loader Bucket [PDF 499 KB]