Text for Tobacco harvester safety requires patience and proper training.

Cherie Berry, Commissioner of Labor
1- 800- 625- 2267   www. nclabor. com
An increase in the number of fatal or near- fatal accidents has
occurred with the increase of mechanization in tobacco
harvesting in North Carolina. The following two cases are
actual examples of preventable accidents involving mechanized
tobacco harvesters on North Carolina farms.
• Fatality in 2006: A farmworker was crushed to death
when his body was pulled into the defoliators of a tobacco
harvester while he was trying to remove clogged stalks from
the machine.
• Injury in 2008: While trying to unclog the conveyor belt
on a tobacco harvester, a farmworker’s body was pulled into
the machine. He was found unconscious and not breathing but
survived due to immediate and expert medical attention.
Note: Many operators are under the false assumption that
only the “ tipping head” or “ cutter bars” can kill or seriously
injure a person. These actual cases clearly demonstrate that
ALL moving parts of the harvester can be dangerous. Operators
must make sure that ALL moving parts have stopped before
getting off the harvester.
Division of Occupational Safety and Health
1101 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699- 1101
Tobacco Harvester Safety Requires Patience and Proper Training
Demonstration only ( Not actual injured worker).
Harvester defoliators
Demonstration only ( Not actual injured worker).
Harvester conveyor belt
Remember: Both of these preventable accidents involved a
choice to save time rather than to follow proper operational
procedures, resulting in tragic outcomes. As the survivor of
the 2008 accident explained, “ I knew better. You can get by
with using short cuts a lot of the times, but it doesn’t take but
one to get injured or lose your life.”
What’s the bottom line? An increase in mechanized tobacco
harvesting has increased exposure to the very serious hazards
associated with these machines. Death or serious injury is likely
to occur without safe work practices.
Why the increase in mechanized harvesting? Machine
harvesting cuts costs. According to N. C. State University’s
Department of Agricultural Resource Economics, labor costs
account for about 23 percent of the total estimated cost per
acre of hand- harvested flue- cured, tobacco. Comparatively,
labor costs for machine harvested tobacco account for about 6
percent. ( Bullen, Fisher, Weddington, NCSU, 2009)
Are accidents preventable? Yes, employers must train
employees on safe harvester operations as prescribed in the
operator’s manual for the specific harvester to be used. In
addition, employers must implement measures to ensure safe
work practices are followed.
The following are examples of operational procedures found
in operator’s manuals for tobacco harvesters. These procedures
will vary, depending on the manufacturer and harvester used.
BEFORE Operating
• Ensure the operator’s manual is on hand and the operator
is familiar with its contents.
• Ensure that the operator presence and neutral start systems
are functional before starting the engine.
• Ensure that all the controls are in the neutral or off position
before starting the engine.
• Ensure everyone is clear of the machine when starting
the engine and during the time of operation.
• Never start or operate the engine in an unventilated,
closed area.
AFTER Operating
• Stop the engine and do not smoke while refueling.
• Allow radiator to cool before checking the fluid. Turn the
cap slowly to release pressure.
• Check local and state government regulations if you
wish to transport the machine on a road or highway.
Safety devices, lights and warnings not furnished with
your machine may be required.
• Never tow the machine.
• Chock wheels while parking or storing.
• Make sure that the forklift rests on the positioning latches
when it is in the raised position.
• Lower the rear forklift and headers when not in use.
• Lower headers onto a suitable support before disconnecting
any part of the header or header lift systems.
• Lower the forklift to its lowest position before adjusting
the cable.
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• Do not get on or off the machine while the engine is
running. Wait for ALL machine movement to stop before
dismounting. Never attempt to adjust, lubricate, clean or
unclog any part of the machine while the engine is running.
• Do not allow riders on the machine at any time for any
reason. The operator is the ONLY authorized person.
• NEVER operate the machine while the operator presence
sensing switch or any other safety device is inoperable.
NEVER override the operator presence sensing switch to
save time.
• Keep hands, feet, hair and clothing away from all moving
• Drive the machine at speeds compatible with good safety
practices. This is especially important when operating over
rough ground, on slopes, crossing ditches or while turning.
• Never drive the machine on the road while a trailer is
• Keep all shields and guards in place when operating.
• Use a piece of cardboard or wood instead of your hands
and wear eye protection when checking for hydraulic leaks.
Hydraulic fluid escaping under pressure can penetrate the
skin. If oil is injected into the skin, it must be surgically
removed within hours or gangrene may result.
WHILE Operating