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Ohio State University Extension


Safe Use of the Power Take-off (PTO)

Agricultural Tailgate Safety Training for Operators and Supervisors
Agriculture and Natural Resources
Agricultural Safety and Health Program

Objective: To become aware of the dangers of the PTO system, and to learn to use the system safely.

Trainer’s Note

PTOs are used on farm and lawn equipment. Demonstrate how to properly hook up and unhook a PTO. Wear close-fitting clothing to reinforce the idea that loose clothing is dangerous. Discuss the importance of keeping protective shields in place. Ask workers for examples of possible incidents and preventive measures that should be taken. Review the true or false quiz.

BackgroundIllustration of safety shield secured to equipment, both guards and integral protection.

Keep safety shields securely fastened on equipment. Safe operation of the PTO is not possible without these shields in place. A sudden slip or fall could throw a worker directly onto the unshielded rotation shaft. Also, those who are unfamiliar with the equipment, may not recognize the danger of the power shaft.

Wear snug fitting clothes when working around power shafts. Loose clothing can catch in or be wrapped around the power shaft. Do not step over an operating PTO. A sudden slip or a loose shoe string could cause the worker to become entangled in the PTO shaft. Long hair may also become entangled in a PTO shaft. Hair should be pulled back out of the way.

Most power shafts can be extended. These shafts are usually constructed with a square shaft inserted into a housing or casing. It is important that at least 5 ½ inches of the sliding shaft remain in the housing when the power shaft is connected to the tractor. This reduces the possibility of the shafts separating while the tractor is in motion. If the shaft splits, the portion of the shaft connected to the tractor is free to whirl at high speeds, endangering the worker and tractor. If the shaft does separate, disengage the PTO immediately and stop the tractor. Use extreme caution when operating equipment with a separable PTO shaft. Never hook 540 rpm equipment to a 1000 rpm PTO or vice-versa.

Review The Following Points

  • Keep all PTO guards and shields in place, even when the PTO is not operating.
  • Always disconnect the PTO when not in use.
  • Never engage the PTO while the machine engine is shut off.
  • Keep hands, feet, and clothing away from PTO.
  • Keep hair away from the PTO.
  • Never operate PTO shafts at extreme angles.
  • Be sure that the PTO spinner shields rotate freely at all times. Always disengage all power and shut off tractor before servicing.
Illustration of PTO shields covering two spinning shafts to protect user. Illustration of a universal joint and catch points

About These Modules

The Ag Tailgate Training Series was developed by members of the Agricultural Safety and Health Program in the Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering. Revised by Dee Jepsen, State Agricultural Safety Leader, with editing assistance by Lisa Pfeifer and Cody McClain.

True or False Answer Key

  1. T
  2. F
  3. T
  4. T
  5. T

Quiz: Safe Use of the Power Take-off



True or False?    

1. Always disconnect the PTO when it is not in use. T F
2. Wear loose fitting clothing when working with PTOs. T F
3. Always keep the PTO safety shields on the machine. T F
4. Never hook 540 rpm equipment to a 1000 rpm PTO or vice-versa. T F
5. Never engage the PTO while the machine engine is shut off. T F






Originally posted Sep 3, 2019.