Post written by: Greg Kirkham
Many of the farm tractors manufactured today are equipped with seatbelts and a completely enclosed cab, providing critical protection from the leading cause of death on farms, tractor rollovers. As a result, Rollover Protective on Structures, or ROPS, has been a standard safety feature of virtually all farm tractors for many years.
Still, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates one half of all tractors in operation in the U.S. today are without rollover protection. This is mainly because of two reasons.
- Continued use of older tractors. It wasn’t until 1985 that American tractor manufacturers began to voluntarily add ROPS to all farm tractors of more than 20 horsepower. Many farmers use their tractors for as long as 40 years, so there are still many unprotected models working the fields today. The good news is that ROPS can be retrofitted to these older tractors.
- Voluntary ROPS removal. Until farmers get used to driving with ROPS and realize the structures don’t significantly reduce visibility or add to the complexity of driving, some operators unwisely remove the factory-installed device. Today’s ROPS have been engineered for driver convenience, making the practice of removing the ROPS unnecessary. For instance, foldable two-post ROPS allow farmers to lower the structure rather than removing it altogether in low clearance situations.
Think you’re too experienced a tractor operator to need a ROPS? Statistics show that experienced drivers are involved in 80 percent of all tractor rollovers. Here’s how a ROPS and seatbelt use can protect you and your loved ones.
- Injury avoidance. ROPS are designed and constructed to keep drivers safe during tractor rollovers. All structures must pass a battery of tests to assure adequate performance and driver protection and meet standards set by the Society of Automotive Engineers. Seatbelt use with a ROPS prevents the driver from being tossed around inside the cab in the event of an accident.
- Financial protection. What would it cost your loved ones to care for the family farm if you or another working family member were seriously injured in a rollover in equipment without a ROPS? And if an employee is killed or injured, the lawsuits, attorney fees and rising workers’ compensation premiums could put you out of business. ROPS don’t just protect personal safety — they safeguard the health of the family farm.
- Emotional security. It’s not all about the money. Serious injury or death caused by a lack of basic and easily obtained protection would seriously impact the emotional well-being of surviving family members.
Rollover protection is a serious issue. That’s why I recommend taking the easy step of using your tractor’s ROPS.