The Allis-Chalmers Roto-Baler is arguably one of the most complex farm machines ever devised. The machine was ahead of its time, and the company advertised it as the “turning point in hay history.” Although the Roto-Baler was a revolutionary farm machine in its day, there were and still are dangers in operating this baler.
I have been doing some research the last couple of days on accidents specifically associated with the Roto-Baler. Although I have run across a few newspaper articles, there are no concrete numbers of deaths or injuries related to the machine. In the articles I found I realized the stories were similar. The operator got off of a running tractor with the PTO still running to adjust or work on the baler while it was powered. Articles of clothing or limbs were caught in the moving parts and pulled the operator in. The end result was usually the loss of limb(s) or even death.
One story I was able to uncover, which ended only with injury, was an incident where a farmer got his hand and both legs caught in the machine. He had been baling with a Roto-Baler ( he refers to it as “roll baler” ) and it was giving him all kinds of trouble, which is not uncommon for this baler. He stuck his hand near some moving parts when his arms was suddenly pulled in. He tried to brace himself with his feet, but his feet were also pulled into the baler. Luckily for the man his neighbors heard his screams and came to his assistance. (Read the full story here)
There have been many accidents since the introduction of the Roto-Baler. A question that was raised during Roto-Baler injury court cases was who was to blame? Do operators bear the responsibility of understanding the dangers of operating farm machinery; warning labels on the baler and in the manual explicitly explain safety precautions. Was Allis-Chalmers to blame for building a machine that was too dangerous? In one Federal case one owner stated that the company built a faulty machine that did not protect the operator from injury (DE EUGENIO v.ALLIS-CHALMERS MFG. CO.). Who is to blame?
Some farmers and AC collectors still use Roto-Balers, and improperly operating one is still deadly today. Allis-Chalmers updated the baler over the years to try to make it safer. Shields were added to the top of the conveyor to prevent accidents. The 1970s production of Roto-Balers had updated shields covering the gears and belts on the sides of the machine. When Deutz-Allis was formed the company sent letters to baler owners in the late 1980s, warning them to be safe and follow guidelines in the updated manual.
The National Safety Council has a document that details proper farm equipment practices. It is important that everyone is safe when using old machinery like this. Always remember to disengage the PTO before approaching an implement. It could mean the difference between life and death! When you are working with any farm equipment it is important to be careful.