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Following three fatalities in Washington State this summer involving orchard tractors and machinery, the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries has issued tips for avoiding similar tragedies.

In the first incident, in June, an orchard owner lost his life while operating a tractor in a cherry orchard and became pinned between a large tree limb and the tractor.

The second death occurred in early July, while an orchard worker was changing a tire on a sprayer attached to a tractor. The tractor, which was still running, moved forward and the sprayer wheels ran over the worker.

The third incident, also in July, involved an orchard worker who was operating a three-wheeled forklift. After depositing a load of fruit bins, the forklift went off the steep edge of the orchard road, causing it to tip over, crushing the worker.

Hector Castro, spokesman for the state Department of Labor, said three fatalities is an unusually high number in such a short period of time. "Having three incidents like this before the year is even half through is very concerning. That's one of the reasons we put out this hazard alert."

The Department of Labor offers the following tips for machinery operators to prevent similar accidents.

• Read the machinery’s owner’s manual and manufacturer’s safety guidelines before operating it.
• Wear a seat belt.
• When working in an unfamiliar area, stop the machine and shut off the engine before proceeding.
• Inspect the path for potential hazards, such as steep road edges or tree branches, and make a plan to deal with them.
• Before getting off a tractor or attempting to do maintenance, turn off the engine, set brakes, set gears to Park, and wait for moving parts to stop.
• Avoid operating on steep slopes or near ditches, embankments, and holes.
• Make sure towed equipment is properly hitched.
• Don’t drive too fast when turning.

See more detailed information on tractor safety.