As a farmer, you know your dairy operation like the back of your hand. But do you know the best safety practices for your compact track loader or skid-steer loader?

It’s up to you to communicate proper safety tips to promote a safer work environment for yourself and your employees. Keep safety a priority on your farm with these operation and maintenance tips.


Since you or your employees perform most of your compact equipment maintenance, it’s important to invest in educational resources and training. Whether it is online training or hands-on training, you should have proper education and a general understanding of basic operating procedures for your machine’s controls, gauges, signals, indicators and monitor displays before operating.

An important first step is to review the manufacturer’s operation and maintenance manual. The manual serves as a primary guide for proper compact equipment operation and maintenance. This manual is provided upon delivery from your local dealership. The manuals are kept in your machine’s cab for quick reference.

Safety and instructional decals should also be reviewed prior to operation and maintenance. The decals are strategically placed on the interior and exterior of your machine for quick reference. Any decals that become worn, damaged or missing should be replaced by your local compact equipment dealership.


Additionally, you can refer to the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) safety manuals, available in print or digital formats, which serve as complementary references on proper operating practices. AEM is a trade association that provides global services to companies that manufacture equipment, products and services.

Your local dealership can provide hands-on equipment training. Service technicians have the product knowledge and experience to help troubleshoot and maintain a machine. They understand and are able to articulate recent technology updates, encourage demonstrations and show you how to get the best performance from your machine.

Understand safety guidelines

Safety manuals include equipment-specific guidelines to keep you safe on the farm. Wearing protective, tight-fitting clothing that cannot get caught on working components or on the machine as well as personal safety devices are two ways to stay safe. Other required guidelines include wearing a seatbelt and using the grab handles and steps that are provided for a three-point contact when entering and exiting the machine.

Convey equipment safety features

Compact equipment can be highly technical, especially with the evolution of smarter technologies. So it’s crucial to understand advanced equipment technologies. For instance, efficient operation may include using rearview or sideview cameras, travel/backup alarms, work lights, mirrors or a horn.

Make sure to understand multifunctional display panels before operating. Display panels show critical machine data, such as speed, engine rpm, transmission gear, machine warnings, coolant temperature and transmission oil temperature. Some manufacturers offer display panels that provide machine parameters while showing the rearview or sideview camera image.

You can also utilize remote technology when working on the farm such as loading hay bales, digging posts, picking rocks, loading dirt or even when working in a barn. By operating a machine remotely, you can do the work from a distance – free from dirt, mud, dust and noise.

Perform a visual check

Promoting a safety mindset also means performing routine equipment maintenance. Take a few minutes to walk around the machine, looking for potential problems before entering the equipment:

  • Check for broken, missing or damaged parts and make necessary repairs.
  • Check for damaged/missing safety or instructional decals and replace them if needed.
  • Check tires for cuts, tearing or overinflation.
  • Check wheels for damaged rims and missing or loose wheel nuts or bolts.
  • Review tracks for broken or damaged pins, bushings or other track parts.
  • Replace worn or damaged tires or tracks.
  • Check fluids, oils and filters.
  • Look for evidence of leaks and have any leaks repaired and fill fluid to proper level.
  • Remove any debris from the engine compartment and the battery box, around exhaust components, under the machine and around rotating parts.
  • Inspect lights and cab glass for damage.
  • Clean and inspect all walking surfaces, steps and grab handles.
  • Assess that the roll-over protective structure (ROPS) and falling object protective structure (FOPS) are in good condition.

Before performing routine maintenance on any piece of compact equipment, you should be educated on maintenance procedures and possess the necessary skills and tools to complete the job correctly. Some maintenance items may need to be completed by an authorized equipment dealership. Also, never modify a loader by welding, grinding, drilling holes or adding attachments unless instructed to do so by your compact equipment manufacturer.

Choose the right attachment

Lastly, work closely with your dealership to determine the right attachment for the machine to best fit your chores. Knowing the machine’s specifications before pairing it with an attachment can help reduce hazards and increase productivity.

You should be able to see the attachment working at ground level from a normal seated position in the cab. Being able to comfortably see the attachment out front, with good up-front and peripheral sight of the tires or tracks, and having an unobstructed view of the machine’s rear are critical to proper machine operation.

It’s up to you to promote a safe work environment for your dairy operation. By consulting the operation and maintenance manual, the operator handbook, operator training courses and service training courses, you can be better equipped when working on the farm.