Tractor power take-off guarding: a health and safety solution

Guidance for employers on how to manage the risk from tractor power take-off (PTO) shafts. A PTO shaft can cause serious injury or death from entanglement if the shaft is not guarded correctly.



When a tractor's rotating PTO output stub and shaft are not guarded properly (Figure 1), hands, feet, legs, hair, jewellery or clothing can be caught in the rotating parts of the machine.

Where proper guarding is not provided, there is a risk of the following occurring:

  • amputations
  • lacerations
  • de-gloving
  • permanent disability
  • death
Figure 1 Anyone operating the tractor is at risk of entanglement if the tractor PTO output stub is not fitted with a master guard and, when not in use, an output stub guard.

Controlling risks

The risk of entanglement in a rotating PTO output stub and shaft can be eliminated or reduced by doing the following:

  • Ensure PTO output stub master guards and shaft guards are fitted and fixed, including covering universal joints and clutches (Figure 2).
  • Replace damaged or inadequate guarding. Guarding should meet the requirements of Australian Standard 1121– 2007: Agricultural tractor power take-offs (Parts 1–4).
  • Ensure the guard around the PTO shaft is designed so it does not rotate (Figure 3).
  • Ensure the PTO is disengaged and the engine turned off when working near the PTO.
  • Ensure that employees do not wear loose clothing and jewellery while operating machinery. Clothing should not have dangling cords.
  • Ensure that employees tie back long hair while operating machinery.
  • Ensure employees and bystanders stand clear of the PTO operating area.
  • Before using an implement that is powered by a PTO shaft inspect the shaft guarding. Replace the guarding if any damage is identified.
  • Ensure maintenance is carried out on guarding. Where manufacturers provided maintenance specifications, ensure they are complied with.
  • Document any machinery inspections and maintenance.
  • Keep a history of maintenance records while the machinery is in use.

Employees must not be permitted to operate the tractor unless they are properly trained and supervised. Keep records of all training provided as verification.

Figure 2: A PTO fixed master guard should be fitted and the output stub guard should be in place when the PTO is not in use.
Figure 3: Ensure the PTO output stub, universal joints, clutches and PTO are fitted with suitably restrained guards to prevent rotation.

Legal duties

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, employers must, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees and independent contractors. Where a risk cannot be eliminated, it must be reduced so far as is reasonably practicable.

Employers must provide employees with the necessary information, instruction, training or supervision to enable them to do their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health.

Employers must also consult with employees and health and safety representatives, if any, when identifying hazards and risks and implementing controls to eliminate or, where not reasonably practicable to do so, minimise them.

Further information