Agricultural Engineering Expert Witnesses & Equipment Injuries – Part 3

In Agricultural and Grounds Maintenance Equipment, agricultural engineering expert witness Richard L. Parish, PhD, PE, writes on industry consensus standards:

The American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) is the primary standards organization for farm and grounds maintenance equipment, although The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) issues most tractor standards. Most of the ASABE standards will be labeled “ASAE” rather than “ASABE” since standards developed before the name change (inclusion of “and Biological”) still carry the ASAE label. Some are jointly listed as American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards. There are three primary safety standards covering three primary sub-areas:

ANSI/ASAE S318.17 JUN2009 Safety for Agricultural Field Equipment ANSI/ASAE S354.5 JAN2006 Safety for Farmstead Equipment ASAE S440.3 MAR2005 Safety for Powered Lawn and Garden Equipment
The above standards provide specific safety recommendations for equipment used in each of the areas and each also references related standards. Another general safety standard from ASABE that is relevant to many agricultural and grounds maintenance injury cases is ANSI/ASAES493.1 JUL2003 Guarding for Agricultural Equipment. This standard provides a great deal of both general and specific guidance on safety guarding.

ASAE S441.3 FEB1999 Safety Signs provides guidance on wording and formatting of safety signs on equipment. It also has an annex containing many recommended pictorials for safety signs. Although in most cases, an agricultural engineering expert will not be allowed to testify as a warnings expert, an engineer can comment on conformance to ASAE S441 (or the lack of conformance). A related standard is SAE J284 JUN1975 (R2008) Safety Alert Symbol for Agricultural, Construction and Industrial Equipment.

ASAE EP363.1 DEC1982 (R2008) Technical Publications for Agricultural Equipment is a valuable engineering practice (somewhat below the status of a standard) in many cases since it provides recommendations on the content and formatting of operators’ manuals. Most large manufacturers do a good job on manuals, but many small companies do not. This engineering practice provides guidance for evaluating the safety content of manuals. An incomplete or poorly written manual may not be a major factor in a case, but can be used to demonstrate lack of safety commitment by the manufacturer.

In addition to these general safety standards, ASABE has issued many other standards dealing with specific agricultural and grounds maintenance machines including:

ASAE S355.3 DEC2002 Safety Practices for Agricultural Front-End Loaders ASAE S474.1 FEB1999 (R2009) Agricultural Rotary Mower Safety ASAE S361.3 APR1990 (R2005) Safety for Portable Agricultural Auger Conveying Equipment
There are many other ASABE standards that can be used in a given case, including those dealing with hitches, power take-offs (PTO), lighting, controls, etc. Several SAE and ASABE standards deal with overturn and overhead protection for tractors and related equipment:

SAE J1194 MAY1989 (R2008) Rollover Protective Structures (ROPS) for Wheeled Agricultural Tractors SAE J2194 DEC1987 (R2008) Roll-Over Protective Structures (ROPS) for Wheeled Agricultural Tractors SAE J167 JUL1970 (R2008) Overhead Protection for Agricultural Tractors – Test Procedures and Performance Requirements ANSI/ASAE S478 SEP1995 (R2005) Roll-Over Protective Structures (ROPS) For Compact Utility Tractors
There is a trend within ASABE to coordinate standards with ISO, the international standards organization. Some ASABE standards have become ISO standards, and some ASABE standards have been dropped in deference to ISO standards. Some relevant ISO standards include the ISO 4254 series of standards on Agricultural Machinery Safety.