Know the Dangers of a PTO

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Here are some key points.

  • PTOs are dangerous because the shafts rotate at a high speed.
  • Most PTO accidents occur when people get too close to a rotating shaft.
  • Guarding for PTO drivelines helps prevent PTO entanglement.

What is a power takeoff?

  • An important part of the tractor is the power takeoff or PTO.
  • The PTO provides a means of transmitting power between a tractor and another piece of farm machinery. Some examples of PTO-driven equipment are hay balers, rotary cutters, weed mowers, forage blowers and irrigation pumps.

Why PTOs are dangerous

  • PTO shafts rotate at a very high speed. They make 540 or 1,000 revolutions per minute when they are at normal operating speed.
  • Most PTO accidents happen when people get too close to the rotating shaft, especially if guarding has been removed or is damaged.
  • Hair and loose clothing, such as a pant leg, shoelace or drawstring from a hooded sweatshirt, can get caught on the shaft and wrap around it.
  • Your hair or clothing could also catch in the U-joints or other fastening devices and wrap you around the PTO shaft.
  • Entanglement and injury can occur in less than a second due to the speed and power of PTOs. While a lucky few may come away with relatively minor injuries, such as friction burns, scrapes and bruises, most PTO entanglement accidents result in much more severe injuries- including lacerations, scalping, strangulation, broken bones, loss of limbs- and even death.

Safety devices will help

  • PTO shields cover the shaft to help prevent you from becoming entangled.
  • Check to see if the equipment you are using has shields over all parts of the PTO shaft.
  • Don’t assume a guard or shield will prevent an accident. Shields may be missing, damaged or cover only part of the PTO driveline.
  • Immediately report any problems to your supervisor and do not operate the machinery without proper guarding in place.

How you can protect yourself

  1. When you finish your task, turn off the PTO before getting off the tractor. Stop the tractor and take the key.
  2. Don’t go near the PTO driveline until all parts have stopped rotating.
  3. Don’t check, adjust, unplug or grease any PTO-powered equipment while the PTO shaft is rotating.
  4. Check the manufacturer’s instructions on how to hook up an implement to the PTO. Make sure no one is on the tractor or near the equipment while you are hooking it up.
  5. If a PTO is operating while the tractor is stationary, be sure the tractor is in neutral or park and the parking brake is on.
  6. Don’t wear loose clothing around a PTO. If you have long hair, tie it back or tuck it under a hat before operating the machinery.
  7. Every time you hook up an implement to your tractor’s PTO, check to make sure the shields are in place and are properly functioning.
  8. If someone is working alone with PTO-powered machinery, check on the person from time to time.
  9. Watch your step when working around a running machine to avoid falling on or near a spinning PTO.” and “Never step over or lean across a live PTO. If you need to reach something on the other side of the PTO, walk around the equipment instead.” and “Make sure no one else is near the PTO-powered equipment before you start it.

PTO Do’s and Don’ts


  • Stay a safe distance away from any PTO- powered equipment.
  • Keep PTO shields on at all times.
  • Check for missing or damaged shields before hooking up the PTO.
  • Overload an electrical outlet or try to plug a three-pronged plug into a two-pronged extension cord.
  • Wear loose clothing or jewelry when operating a PTO.
  • Lean over, step across or crawl under a PTO when it is operating.
  • Unplug or adjust any PTO-powered machinery while the PTO shaft is rotating.

When you’re ready to work safely, you’re ready to work. See our full line of safety supplies, including respirators, eye and ear protection, coveralls, first aid and more.

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