I drove a tractor in January while visiting dear friends in Palacios, dumping buckets full of sand/gravel/rock to spread in the low spots washed out by too much rain. This small tractor had a front loader on it. I have driven a Mack truck and a Pontiac GTO, but never a tractor. Chuck, my tractor instructor, told me there were standard hand signals for tractors and other construction equipment. Who knew? I did a little research and, sure enough, “[h]and signals have been used by the military, construction workers and factory laborers as a means of communication when voice communication is not possible. Consistent hand signals are essential when people must work together in noisy, hazardous work environments. Hand signals can also make work safer in the agriculture industry.”* The hand signals I am most familiar with are those used on Houston freeways. For example, the Yukon salute is a favorite along I-10. Perhaps you know it as the one finger wave.

Think about it. What if someone could communicate without speaking that you only had “this far to go?” What if you were signaled to “come to me,” “slow down” or “stop.” There have been (and I suspect will continue to be) events in my life where a hand signal along these lines would have been more than a little helpful. Imagine you stand across the room from an enchanting creature you’ve been observing all evening. Do you risk that long walk? What if it was designated “hand signal” night at the club and you got the “come to me” signal? What if you caught someone’s eye in the mirror over the bar? You could give the “slow down” sign or, if you dared, “this far to go.” No complications. No awkward sighs. No misunderstandings. And all given in the interest of safety.

Chuck and I got half of the contents of the small trailer emptied that afternoon in Palacios. I had a marvelous time. You focus on the task at hand. Forward, backward, raise, lower, tilt up and tilt down. I volunteered to help anytime. No complications. No awkward sighs. No misunderstandings. And all given in the interest of safety.

*Hand Signals for Machinery Operation
David W. Smith, Extension Safety Program, Texas AgriLife Extension Service TAMU