Why sprayers tip

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This article is a short reminder for sprayer operators to respect the possibility of tipping a sprayer. Every spring I catch wind of someone tipping over. When I can ask the operator questions I start with “Is everyone alright?” and “Was the sprayer full?“. Hopefully the answers are “Yes” and No“, but not always.

The following factors are always involved:

  • Driving too fast. Usually entering a field at road speed.
  • Entering the field on a downhill slope and/or catching a pothole or soft shoulder.
  • Turning in a tight radius, usually 180 degrees. This is made worse when the sprayer is towed.
  • Sprayer is not completely full and “slosh” changes the centre of gravity.
  • Narrow tires and a narrow base.
Fortunately the sprayer wasn’t damaged and the spill was minor.
A tight turn at high speed coupled with a depression in the entryway and tank slosh was enough to tip the unit. They had it righted and hauled out soon after. No one was hurt.

I’ve heard as many cases involving seasoned operators as new operators. The next few pictures are of a veteran operator’s sprayer carrying 28%/ATS. Just like the images above, a tight turn at high speed sloshed the load just as a deep pot hole caught the outside front wheel. This sent the sprayer into a lane of traffic before it tipped back and over into the field. No one was hurt.

Fortunately for the operator, the spill was contained in their field (not the road or ditches). The 90′ boom had to be cut off before the sprayer could be towed back to the yard to be sold off as parts. While the operator has looked at the bright side (an opportunity to upgrade) it has left them relying on a custom operator for spring spraying and making a hasty in-season equipment purchase.

Lost a tire during the tow back to the yard.
Crumpled boom after having to be cut from the sprayer.
Not the way anyone wants to see their sprayer.

Major Spill

What follows are generic steps for what to do if there is a major spill. Always defer to the process outlined by your regional authority. If you do tip the sprayer, first protect yourself, then others, then animals in that order. Stop any exposure by removing clothing and washing as best you can. Then stop people from entering the area and, if it is safe to do so, try to prevent the spill from spreading.

Contact your local spill centre. In Ontario, the Spills Action Centre will receive calls 24 hours a day at 1-800-268-6060. Consult with your municipality for their spill reporting contact numbers.

Take home

Of course we’d rather avoid this problem altogether. Be sure to slow down before turning into a field. Take the turn as gradually as possible. Remember that soft spring ground and new pot holes can become serious obstacles – consider scouting the entry before the first spray or at minimum getting out of the cab and checking before entering.