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Farmer dies after being pinned beneath the header of a combine in Minnesota.

Minnesota Department of Health
Morgantown, WV: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, FACE 00MN014, 2000 Nov; :1-4
A 37-year-old male farmer (victim) died after he was pinned beneath the header of a combine. The header was equipped with hydraulic cylinders to raise and lower it. Attached to one of the hydraulic cylinders was a mechanical safety stop. When the header was raised, the safety stop could be locked in position to prevent the header from being lowered or falling to the ground due to activation of the hydraulic system or due to a failure of a hydraulic system component. Across the bottom of the header was a row of fixed and movable pads. The movable pads were connected via control arms to a system that provided automatic control of the header height. While the combine was driven through fields, the movable pads contacted the ground first since they extended slightly below the fixed pads. When the combine traveled over uneven ground, an upward force was exerted against one or more of the movable pads. An upward movement of any one of the movable pads caused the hydraulic control system to automatically raise the header. As the combine traveled forward and the terrain became more even, the movable pad or pads returned to their normal position and caused the hydraulic system to lower the header to it's previous position. During the 1999 harvest season, the automatic height control system did not always maintain the header in a position close to the ground. Instead the header would start and continue to rise higher and higher. While the victim harvested soybeans, one or more of the movable pads apparently became stuck and caused the header to rise off the ground. The victim stopped the combine and moved the engine's throttle lever to an idle position before leaving the cab. He did not lock the safety stop in place to prevent the header from lowering before crawling beneath it. While under the header it began to lower and he became pinned beneath it. The victim's father was at their farm site waiting for a call from his son to tell him that a grain truck parked in the field was full of soybeans. When he did not receive a call as expected he drove to the field and discovered his son beneath the header. He entered the cab and activated the hydraulic system to raise the header. After raising the header he removed his son and used a cell phone to call emergency personnel. They arrived at the scene shortly after being notified and pronounced the victim dead at the scene. MN FACE investigators concluded that to reduce the likelihood of similar occurrences, the following guidelines should be followed: 1. workers should always use all safety devices that machines are equipped with to prevent injury and exposure to hazards; and 2. machines that are not working properly should be taken out of service and repaired prior to use.
Region-5; Accident-analysis; Accident-prevention; Accidents; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Traumatic-injuries; Work-operations; Work-analysis; Work-areas; Work-performance; Work-practices; Safety-education; Safety-equipment; Safety-measures; Safety-monitoring; Protective-measures; Agricultural-workers; Agricultural-industry; Agricultural-machinery; Agriculture; Equipment-operators; Farmers; Tractors
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation
Funding Type
Cooperative Agreement
Fiscal Year
Identifying No.
FACE-00MN014; Cooperative-Agreement-Number-U60-CCU-507283
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Performing Organization
Minnesota Department of Health
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division