Social Marketing of Machinery Safety Shields


Power-take off entanglements are a frequent source of debilitating injury and fatality in the Northeast. Detailed fatality data for New York and Pennsylvania indicate that machinery entanglement fatalities are among the top three causes of death (Harshman, 2009; NYCAMH, 2010) and insurance data confirm both the number and the high expense associated with machinery entanglement injuries (Agri-services, personal communication October 20, 2010; Hartling et al., 1997).

Entanglements represent significant threats to northeastern farm youth, as well (USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service, 2010). NIOSH data document significantly higher proportions of youth non-fatal injuries from machinery in the Northeast, than for the nation as a whole (11% versus 3%) (John Myers, personal communication, August 24, 2009).

The replacement of damaged or missing shielding on PTO equipment is the most reliable way to prevent PTO entanglements. Unfortunately one-third to one-half of rotating machinery shafts are unshielded (West et al.,1998; Murphy et al., 1998; Hallman et al., 1997; Stueland et al 1995). Despite decades of educational interventions highlighting the dangers of PTO entanglement and the benefits of shielding (e.g., Hartling et al., 2004; Reed et al., 2001; Mazur et al., 2005), the rate of PTO fatalities and injuries has not changed considerably.

Identifying Solutions

To address the issue of PTO entanglements, researchers at NEC are currently working on an intervention to make the process of replacing PTO shielding easier, cost-effective and farmer friendly. To do this, researchers have started with an assessment of PTO shielding on NY farms. This assessment involves visits to randomly selected dairy and livestock farms (farms identified in a previous survey as having a higher proportion of unshielded equipment) to identify PTO shielding design issues. In addition to these visits, researchers have conducted interviews with NY dairy and livestock farmers to understand past experiences with replacing PTO shielding. This information will permit study researchers to develop PTO programs that make the process of replacing shielding rewarding to farmers.

Future Efforts

Over the next few years, NEC researchers hope to use this information to work with shielding manufacturers to improve shielding designs, as well as shielding distribution and supply. Once these issues have been addressed, NEC will launch a PTO shielding program which will involve promotion, assistance and the provision of incentives for replacing damaged or missing PTO shielding.