Avoid injury and damage with safe towing techniques
Insights28 Apr 2016 James Rickard
Recovering tractors and equipment that are stuck can be a very dangerous task and one that should be carefully planned and executed. To help make towing easier and avoid accidents, we sought valuable advice from chartered safety practitioner and registered consultant, Chris Knagg.
Knowing how to tow a stuck tractor safely can save lives and damage costs.
As many people know and have experienced, towing stuck machinery out of a wet spot can be a challenging and frustrating task, but definitely not one to be taken lightly.
If rushed, the consequences can be catastrophic, even fatal.
Having the right equipment and expertise will go a long way to making any recovery operation easier and safer.
Knowing when you are stuck and when you need help is also important. No-one likes to admit they are stuck and need help but in most cases the more you struggle the deeper you go and the harder the recovery.
The dangers of recovering stuck agricultural equipment will very much depend on many factors which will all need to be assessed and planned for before attempting the recovery;
- Ground conditions
- Ditches and watercourses
- Overhead cables
- Roads and railways
In many cases, a straight forward recovery may only require a similar sized machine and a long tow rope or chain, however, extreme cases will require extra consideration and planning.
- The tow rope or chain must have a breaking strain of at least twice the combined mass of the towing tractor and the equipment being recovered.
- The towing device should be long enough to allow the towing tractor to be on good ground.
- If possible, the towing vehicle should be greater in size and power of the equipment that is stuck.
- If more than one towing vehicle is used, a solid tow bar to connect the two towing tractors together is much safer than chains, ropes or slings.
- You should only fasten towing devices to the drawbars and towing points on the tractors and equipment.
- Make sure all pins are securely fasted in place so they cannot fly out.
- Only tow in a straight line and always try to tow up hill on slopes.
- Avoid snatching at the tow ropes or chains as this can snap them and cause serious damage - good clutch control is essential.
- In some cases it may be necessary to dig the stuck machine out and clear the ground around it to aid the recovery.
- Take care when using hydraulic excavators to try and pull the stuck vehicle as this can damage hydraulic hoses and rams. Hydraulic oil under high pressure is very dangerous.
- Removing the implement and recovering the tractor and implement separately may be a safer option, but beware of the risk of being crushed or trapped when trying to de-couple the equipment. If in doubt leave the tractor and implement coupled.
- If you choose to use a winch to recover the stuck tractor, this should be done by a trained operator.
- With all towing operations it is important that there are no bystanders anywhere near the towing operation. A chain or rope that comes lose or snaps will cause serious injury.
- Good communication; horn, lights and hand signals between all drivers is essential. All drivers should be agreed in how the towing will start and stop and one driver should take the overall lead in directing operations.
- Chains, ropes, shackles and slings should not be used for any other purpose once they have been used for towing as they are unsuitable for lifting once they have been subjected to the stresses and strains of towing. Unless they have been inspected and tested by a qualified person.