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Since national program began in June 2017, over 2,000 tractors have been retrofitted with rollover protection.

September 4, 2018

4 Min Read
WORTH THE COST: UNMC graduate student Dan Kent (center) discusses the importance of seat belts and rollover protection structures.Photo courtesy of UNMC

Is your life worth $391?

That’s the average out-of-pocket cost of a Rollover Protection Structure for enrollees in the National ROPS Rebate Program. Agricultural experts throughout the U.S. endorse ROPS as a way to reduce the impact of tractor rollovers, the No. 1 cause of farm injury or death.

Since the program began in June 2017, more than 2,000 tractors have been retrofitted, with over $1.5 million in rebates going directly to farmers since the program began. Records show at least 197 close calls and 16 serious injuries or fatalities have been prevented through these efforts.

Program funds have been provided from donors including Compeer Financial, CHS, Land O’ Lakes, AgCountry Farm Credit Services, Auction of Champions, New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets and Food, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, American National Co., New York State Assembly and Senate Agriculture Committees, and Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Foods and Markets.

While newer model tractors have ROPS incorporated into their design, helping prevent rollover injuries, the risk of death or injury is still high when ROPS and seat belts aren’t in use.

“In Nebraska, tractor rollover incidents aren’t as prevalent as in areas where more small, older tractors are in use,” says Aaron Yoder, associate professor of environmental, agricultural and occupational health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health. “That’s because many farmers here use newer tractors. But if ROPS aren’t in place, a rollover can be fatal in a new tractor model, too.”

In 8 out of 10 tractor rollover incidents, either inexperienced or aging operators are involved. That’s because both young and older operators tend to use small, older model tractors for chores around the farm. Newer tractors are used for major farm activities.

“Those older tractors pose the most rollover risk,” Yoder says. “Other scenarios where rollovers often occur are in hayfields with rolling or hilly terrain. Mowing, baling and hauling hay on uneven terrain put tractor operators at greater risk for rollovers.”

Statistics have shown that 99.9% of tractor operators using ROPS and a seat belt survive a rollover with few injuries.

In 1985, American tractor manufacturers voluntarily added ROPS to all farm tractors with more than 20 hp sold in the U.S. Of some 4.8 million tractors used on U.S. farms, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health estimates that 50% of those tractors do not feature rollover protection.

“Although newer model tractors are designed with ROPS and seat belts, some of those features are disabled or removed for a variety of reasons,” Yoder says. “If the roll bars get in the way and are folded down, or if seatbelts malfunction, the protection often isn’t restored to working condition.”

“On newer tractors, we strongly urge operators to keep their roll bars up,” he says. “They may sometimes be in the way when you’re getting in and out of the tractor or doing something like mowing. Fold them down if you have to, but don’t leave them that way. Put them back in place. Don’t risk injury or death for the sake of convenience."

ROPS are designed to create a protective zone around a tractor operator when a rollover occurs. As long as the roll bars and seat belt keep the operator within that zone of protection, there’s little risk of being crushed or injured from a tractor rollover.

All ROPS have been tested to meet crush, static and dynamic standards set by the Society of Automotive Engineers. ROPS can be made of any material as long as it meets temperature requirements and withstands the standard tests. Typical ROPS installed on later-model tractors are made of precision-welded steel that won’t facture in cold temperatures. ROPS designs include two-post, four-post and ROPS with an enclosed cab. Two-post ROPS are the most common design and are available in either rigid or foldable models.

Once installed, a ROPS should be periodically inspected and serviced to check for extreme rust, cracks or other signs of wear. If lighting or other attachments are attached to a ROPS, they should be clamped on; it’s never advisable to drill holes in a ROPS.

“If a tractor fitted with ROPS does overturn, the ROPS should be replaced,” Yoder says. “They’re designed to absorb energy generated by a tractor hitting the ground, but they will only withstand a single overturn.”

It can be difficult to find a ROPS that fits an older tractor. The Kentucky ROPS Guide, compiled by University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, lists ROPS for tractors manufactured since 1967.

Local equipment dealers should also have ROPS information for retrofitting their own tractor brands.

Because producing a ROPS for some older-model tractors may be cost-prohibitive, there are now ROPS rebate programs available in every state through the National ROPS Rebate Program.

To enroll in the program, tractor owners can call 877-767-7748 or go to ROPSr4u.com. The program team will provide enrollees with sourcing information and cost estimates for ROPS kits. Full enrollment details are available on the website.

A ROPS typically cost anywhere from $1,000 on a moderate-sized tractor up to as much as $2,000 on larger tractors. However, certain states have additional rebate funds, which can be as high as 70% of the ROPS cost. Yoder noted that some equipment dealers may be willing to discount the cost of a ROPS and installation because they’re well aware of the level of safety the ROPS provide.

Source: UNMC News Release

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