We love smartphones and gadgets, but we also appreciate massive safety innovations. For that reason, we’re going to drift from our norm a little bit. Last year, despite a general 20% drop in workplace deaths, deaths on farms remained high. Anyone reared on or near a farm, knows that a tractor’s power take-off (PTO) must be respected. Waterford brothers, Noel and Ger Hickey, have designed SafeShaft. SafeShaft is a PTO alternative looking to make the farmyard safer.

What is a PTO or power take-off?

You’ll find a PTO on the rear of most tractors. Simply put, the PTO is an outlet for engine power which can be used to drive other machinery. Often, the PTO is used for spreading slurry, fertiliser or cutting grass. As you can imagine, machinery capable of achieving these tasks require lots of power. While the PTO delivers this power, it remains one of the biggest dangers in the farmyard. Just take a look for yourself.

PTO danger demonstration
Demonstration courtesy of Lake Area Tech

That scarecrow didn’t stand a chance. Generally, PTOs do have safety features, but these often fail over time and are not dealt with quickly enough. With this in mind, the Hickey brothers set about designing a PTO alternative.

How does SafeShaft work as a PTO alternative

SafeShaft works with Vacuum-type slurry tanks. These slurry tanks require power which is traditionally sourced from the PTO. The Hickey brothers believe that this transfer of power to a towed unit is the most dangerous. So, rather than draw power from the tractor’s PTO, SafeShaft powers vacuum-type slurry with a retrofitted hydraulic motor.

A hydraulic motor, two hoses and a sup of oil – danger eliminated – no more shafts

Pat Costello, Cappalahan, Roscrea, Co Tipperary.

This hydraulic motor replaces the need for a PTO and requires a flow of 40L per minute. Its designers have yet to uncover if SafeShaft is a more efficient than a PTO. But they also stated, that in terms of efficiency, it’s certainly no worse.

Fitting the SafeShaft system

The SafeShaft system is not the only hydraulic system on the market. It is the only retrofitted solution available for Irish farmers. Fitting involves a plate to be added the tanker chassis. On this, is placed the new hydraulic motor. It is important to note that there is a fair commitment here. The original PTO powered motor must be completely removed.

safeshaft is a safe pto alternativeDoes SafeShaft have other benefits?

Of course, safety was the primary goal when the Hickeys designed SafeShaft. With that said, there are certainly other benefits. Trailers are much more flexible with this PTO alternative. This is due to the system ruling a PTO shaft redundant. Flexibility means filling in tight areas or spreading in awkward paddocks is no problem.

Finally, at a cost of €1,600, we’d also argue it’s pretty cheap considering the risks people face on farms.


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Founding Editor of Goosed, Martin is a massive tech fan, into movies and will talk about anything to anyone. - Find me on Mastodon

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