Ernie Sheldon climbed aboard the utility tractor. It was hooked to a rotary mower with a standard PTO shaft with guards. Looming around the shaft was a stuffed dummy, full of shredded paper. The dummy represented a person who might be off the tractor stepping over the PTO while it was running, or doing something behind the tractor while it was running.
The first time Sheldon engaged the PTO and let it out, the dummy caught on part of the shaft and wrapped half way around.
"Well, he didn't shred, but if that was you, how many broken bones would you have?" he asked the crowd.
"The answer is a lot. Even though it didn't wrap him up, if he was a person he would have debilitating injuries."
The second time Sheldon engaged the PTO and started the mower, the dummy wasn't so lucky. Literally within seconds the plastic "skin" was destroyed and papers were flying everywhere. The dummy was dead!
Sheldon is a safety specialist with Indiana State University. The demonstration to groups of people rotating through farm safety stops all day was part of the R.I.L.E.Y. safety camp held in Putnam County recently.
The camp was in honor of Riley Sutherlin, a farm boy, FFA and 4-H Member and junior leader who lost his life in a farm accident in June, 2014. His parents had the idea to hold a safety training session in his honor.
"The typical PTO shaft rotates at 540 revolutions per minute, or nine times per second," Sheldon explains. "It wraps up about 10 inches of material with each rotation. So if you do the math, that's about 20 feet or more in 3 seconds.
"If it runs out of string or clothing to wrap, it wraps you instead. Unless you're lucky and your clothes rip off, the results will be devastating. We did the demonstration so that everyone, including young people, could understand why it is important to have PTO guards in place and to not wear loose clothing, hair or have anything dangling while working around a PTO-driven implement. "