Interlocks

Interlocks, devices that require the presence or positioning of a guard or control in order for a machine to function, are common in many industries but not in agriculture. While some interlocks have been used for years, such as clutch and transmission interlocks on tractors that require the clutch to be disengaged and the transmission to be in neutral prior to starting, interlocks have historically not been used with machine component guards. They have been considered vulnerable to the rugged use and environments found in agriculture, require maintenance, add complexity, and require the operator not bypass them by removal or electrically wiring around them. Unlike factories, where workers are supervised and cannot modify machines at will, farms often have machines operated by owners who wish to maximize production and minimize costs. Interlocks on guards could complicate troubleshooting, since it is sometimes necessary to operate the machine with the shield open to see the problem.

Some interlocks are now being used, such as seat interlocks that shut off the crop intake of certain machines if the operator leaves the seat for maintenance purposes. Other interlocks are specifically intended to facilitate maintenance and repairs, such as tethered controls on silo unloaders and cotton pickers, which enable an operator to control the machine while standing near functional components.

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