Working safely with PTOs

Power take-off (PTO) shafts are the power source for many machines that are attached to and powered by tractors.

PTOs can rotate at speeds up to 1000rpm. Unguarded PTOs may cause serious injury. Correct guarding is essential, as it could save your life.

Every year people are seriously injured and even killed by PTOs. These accidents and deaths can be prevented. There are many safety tips that should be followed when working with or near a PTO.

The Safe Stop principles

If checking an issue with the PTO, always follow the Safe Stop principles. It makes sure nothing will move.

  • Make sure the handbrake is fully on;
  • Put all controls and gears in neutral;
  • Stop the engine;
  • Take out the key;
  • Safely descend the steps.

Important measures to follow when operating a PTO

  • Take extra care when operating a PTO driven machine in a stationary position;
  • Ensure all PTO guards are in place, properly chained, lubricated and in perfect working order;
  • Do not use a machine with a damaged PTO shaft guard;
  • Don’t forget to check the PTO is guarded where the shaft attaches to the tractor;
  • Stepping over an operating PTO increases the risk of entanglement;
  • Wearing loose clothing, jewellery or long hair increases the risk of entanglement;
  • PTO guards should only be removed for repair or maintenance. If removed, guards should be refitted before further operation. When undertaking these activities, the PTO should always be disengaged and the tractor should be turned off;
  • Before buying a new guard, it is wise to speak to a reputable machinery dealer or agricultural engineer, as they can advise on the type and make a guard that should suit your needs.

PTO drive shafts should be enclosed with guards along their full length from the tractor to the first bearing on the machine.

It is vital that the groove in the yoke of the PTO shaft is clean, in good condition and the correct bearing ring is fitted so the PTO shaft guard and bearings can turn freely.

A few tips to help select a suitable guard include:

  • Select a guard with flexible end cones;
  • A heavy-duty plastic telescopic section;
  • A guard which can be easily removed and replaced to allow regular maintenance.

Maintaining your PTO

  • Lubricate the bearings as recommended by the manufacturer. It is important to not over grease the bearing as the excess grease will attract dirt;
  • Clean the inner and outer sliding surfaces of the telescopic section of the guard daily. Do not lubricate the sliding section of the guard with grease unless the manufacturer recommends it;
  • Regularly remove the guard and clean the shaft with penetrating oil;
  • Make sure that the U-guard on the tractor is in good condition. If it is any way bent it can damage the end of the PTO guard;
  • Make sure that the O-guard fitted to the implement is the correct size to suit the PTO guard;
  • Make sure that the U-guard on the tractor and the O-guard on the implement overlap the PTO shaft guard by at least 50mm;
  • Make sure that the PTO shaft and guard are the correct length for the machine. The PTO guard telescopic section should be slightly shorter (not by more than 25mm) than the length of the telescopic halves of the PTO drive shaft;
  • Lubricate the sliding metal PTO drive shafts as recommended by the manufacturer;
  • Make sure that the button on the end of the PTO shaft moves freely, as the shaft and guard can be damaged if the button or the end of the shaft is hammered into position;
  • Keep the tractor rear lower lift arms in a position to avoid them striking the PTO shaft or guard when the tractor is turning. If making tight turns, reduce the PTO speed or disengage the PTO drive to protect the shaft;
  • If buying a new PTO shaft for heavy drive machines, for example, forage harvester, mower, feeder wagon or rotavator, make sure the shaft is heavy duty and suitable for the job;
  • Consider fitting a PTO shaft with a wide-angle universal joint on machines like balers, mowers and slurry tankers;
  • Make sure that draw-bar pins on trailed machines do not foul and damage the shaft or guard.

Maxol Lubricants supply a wide range of lubricants and grease for the agri sector. To check the correct lubricant for your tractor, why not go to Maxol’s Lube Advisor and enter the make and model of your tractor. It couldn’t be easier. Click here to launch the Lube Advisor