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Use your head when changing combine heads.
August 12, 2004

Are you doing all you can to make sure that you, your family and employees will be safe when you change combine heads? Changing heads is an accident waiting to happen, says George Maher, NDSU extension safety specialist.

Because combine headers are very heavy and are attached by only a few connections, there is more opportunity for crushing injuries to happen. Also, people are usually in a hurry to change heads.The two can combine to seriously injure or kill someone.

Heres eight steps that Maher says review with your employees before changing heads this season:

1. When removing a header, be sure it is parked in a well blocked position so it will be safe for reattaching the next time. Backing the combine away from the header and letting it fall is not safe and is hard on the machinery. Taking that risk is not worth the little time that is saved.

2. After the combine has been driven into position for attaching the header, the engine should be turned off and the ignition key removed. Place the key in your pocket so the machine cannot be started while you are working under it.

3. Locate the pinching and crushing points where you might get hurt before starting the process of inserting connecting pins and bolts. Knowing where the dangerous places are will reduce the chance of getting hurt. Never poke a finger through the holes to check the alignment before putting in a pin. Its a shortcut guaranteed to shorten the workday and your finger, Maher says.

4. If any prying has to be done, use the longest pry bar possible and be sure it wont slip. A longer pry bar will give you more leverage and keep you further from pinch and crush points.

5. Be certain that all connections are secure before moving the combine. Moving the combine with a partially attached header trying to get a better alignment is very dangerous, Maher says. Thats especially true if someone stays under the machinery to insert the final pin or bolt as the driver tries to line up the holes.

6. After the last pin is securely in place and hydraulic connections are checked, it is safe to remove the header stands or jacks. Store the blocking materials where they can easily be found the next time they are needed. Tossing blocks, stands and jacks in the weeds only makes it more difficult to do a safe job the next time.

7. Check the ballast Switching combine headers may require a change in ballast. A heavier header on the combine may require adding weight to the rear. If you are unsure, always check the operators manual. Front heavy combines tip easily and may dig into the soil when traveling downhill or stopping quickly, which can hurt the operator. Always wear the seat belt.

8. Replace all missing shields. All missing shields should be replaced after the headers have been changed.

There is a much stronger chance that someone else will have to finish combining for you if the shields are not replaced, Maher says.


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