Bale Handling Safety

  From the July 17, 2017 Issue of Agri-News
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 It’s the time of year where much of Alberta will soon be buzzing with hay bines and baling equipment. Many producers equate baling hay with hot summer days and a rush to beat the weather. While getting the hay baled and off the field is understandably a priority, doing the job safely should remain top of mind.

“To increase the safety of baling procedures while ensuring the job gets done, look for hazards related to baler operation, handling, transporting and stacking,” says Kenda Lubeck, farm safety awareness coordinator, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. “Once you identify hazards, make the necessary changes to ensure the safety of all workers.”

The following are some of the hazards.


  • Ensure no children play near hay balers, carriers and stackers.
  • Properly train operators handling tractors, front-end loaders or forklifts.
  • Tractors with cabs, FOPS (falling object protective structure) or four-poster ROPS (roll-over protective structure) used to lift round bales are essential. Two-poster tractor ROPS offer no operator protection from bales falling back off of forks or bale-loading frames.
  • Ensure bale-loading attachments on tractors and forklifts are secure and well fitted.
  • Carry bales as low to the ground as possible.
  • Ensure sufficient counterbalance on tractor or forklift vehicle.
  • Hydraulic control valve should be specific to the front-end loader attachment.
Baler operation:
  • Ensure baler is properly connected to the tractor.
  • Make certain adequate safety guards are fitted.
  • Nobody should ever be allowed to ride on the baler.
  • Prevent others from getting too close to the baler.
  • Watch for and clear any build-up of loose, combustible material in the baler.
  • Ensure an updated fire extinguisher is fitted to the machine.
  • Stop engine, disengage PTO and apply fly wheel brake (on square balers) prior to making adjustments or repairs.
  • Extra care and attention should be made when reversing or turning the machine.
  • Work during the day when there is adequate lighting.
  • Land stack on even ground.
  • Stacks should be clear of overhead power lines.
  • Stacked round bales should be adequately chocked and the borders posted.
  • Watch for damaged bales at base of stack.
  • Stack bales tightly and at a stable height.
  • Do not stack bales higher than safe operating height of farm tractor or forklift.
  • Never allow children to play on stacked bales.
  • Do not handle more bales than is safe for the loader.
  • Carry heavy loads of bales with a sturdy trailer.
  • Ensure proper restraining frames on the back and front of trailer.
  • Use fitted hooks so ropes can be used to secure load.
  • Watch for overhead power lines on or near roads.
  • Avoid rough terrain that can cause bales to become unstable. Travel at safe speeds at all times.
  • People should never ride on loaded hay trailers. This is highly dangerous.
“After identifying the hazards you may encounter, assess how likely someone could be injured, and how severe that injury would be,” says Lubeck. “Then take the list of hay baling and stacking hazards and number them in order of priority, so that those most likely to cause injury or harm can be addressed first.”

Kenda Lubeck
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For more information about the content of this document, contact Kenda Lubeck.
This document is maintained by Ken Blackley.
This information published to the web on June 29, 2017.