Farmer Run Over By Tractor During Idle Adjustment, Michigan

Michigan Case Report: 10MI075
Report Date: 10/31/2011


In the Summer of 2010, a male farmer in his 40s died when he was run over by a John Deer 4430 tractor to which he was adjusting the idle. The decedent was working in a barn; the north wall of the barn faced the road and the south wall faced a large cornfield. The tractor was facing south. The throttle and gear shift controls were both located on the right side of the tractor. When the operator was in the driver’s seat, the operator pushed the throttle lever forward (away from the driver) and the gear lever backwards (toward the driver). Both levers were accessible while standing on the ground, and the lever activation reversed. The decedent was standing on the ground facing the tractor on the tractor’s right side, which placed the engine area in front of him with the small front tire to his right and the large right rear tire to his left. It appears that he reached up and in an attempt to activate the throttle (pulling it toward him) he contacted the gear shift lever, pushing it back which placed the tractor into gear. Because the tractor engine was operating at a high rpm, when placed into gear, the tractor went forward at a high rate of speed. The rear tractor tires left spin marks on the concrete floor of the barn. The tractor continued out the south barn door and arced to the north, crossing the road and continuing into a field. The tractor continued its arced path of travel through the field, and then passed between two houses, crossed a north-south road, and finally came to rest against a tree approximately one-third of a mile from the barn. Several of the decedent’s family members saw the tractor traveling without the operator and investigated. Seeing the decedent on the floor, they went to the house and notified another family member, who investigated and called for emergency response. Emergency response arrived and declared the decedent dead at the scene.


  • Engage the tractor parking brakes and block tractor movement if tractor maintenance must be performed with the engine running.
  • Have a trained mechanic inspect used equipment prior to use to ensure equipment has all safety features intact and to note any equipment modifications that may affect equipment performance and function.
  • Buyers of used tractors should ask the current owners if they bypassed or removed any safety switches on the tractor that is for sale.
  • Develop and implement a farm safety plan.
  • Routinely inspect tractors to identify potential safety issues, such as old/faded SMV emblems, missing PTO master shield, and roll-over protective structure (ROPS) availability. Install/re-install missing or damaged items.
  • Manufacturers should review with their dealer network trends related to the disconnection, alteration, removal or failure of safety devices to determine possible reasons that may lead to redesign, safety notices, operator’s manual notes or other actions.

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Page last reviewed: March 19, 2020