(Source: Pennsylvania State University. Agricultural Safety and Health)
When baling and handling large round bales, you must recognize and understand potential hazards and follow the manufacturer's operating recommendations for each piece of equipment you use.
The round baler is a complex machine with multiple moving parts, and an entanglement incident could lead to costly repair bills, injury, or death. Prior to using the baler each season, you must:
The size and rated power of the tractor you use with your baler must meet the manufacturer’s requirements for towing and powering the baler.
Many producers move bales in the field with front-end loaders. The recommended practice for moving bales with a front-end loader is to remove the bucket and use an attachment designed to handle round bales, such as a grapple hook or bale spear. Using a grapple hook or spear on your front-end loader reduces the potential for the bale to roll back onto the loader arms or operator. Click here to watch a video by Mississippi State University about the danger of lifting unsecured loads with a front-end loader.
Be certain that both the tractor and the attachment are able to safely handle the weight and size of your round bales. The lifting mechanism used to move the bales should have a working load rating that exceeds the size of the bales.
The center of gravity on a tractor changes when it is carrying a bale. Producers tend to lift the load to increase visibility. This action raises the center of gravity and places the tractor at increased risk for a side overturn. The risk of a side overturn also increases when traction is lost because the tractor is operating on rough terrain or wet ground.
When using a rear-mounted three-point lift to move round bales, do not lift bales too high. The center of gravity could shift to the rear of the tractor and cause the front of the tractor to rise. If the front of the tractor rises too much, the front tires lose stability, and steering is impaired. Hauling bales simultaneously with a front-end loader and rear-mounted attachment can reduce the stability problem, but you must take care not to exceed the weight limit for the loader tractor’s tire capacity.
Specialized bale wagons and trailers that carry multiple bales at a time can save time and reduce the risk of overturns and of overloading a tractor’s hydraulic system.
Safety Recommendations When Baling and Handling Round Bales. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/64301/safety-recommendations-when-baling-and-handling-round-bales.
Grisso, R., Cundiff, J., Stone, B., and Smith, R. (2002) Large round bale safety. Virginia Cooperative Extension. Retrieved from http://www.pubs.ext.vt.edu/442/442-455/442-455_pdf.pdf.
Grisso, R., Fike, J., Ohanehi, D. & Perumpral, J. (2014). Management Tips for Round Bale Hay Harvesting, Moving, and Storage. Virginia Cooperative Extension. Retrieved from http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/442/442-454/442-454.html.