Jim Rink of Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance takes his mock safety farm scene display, complete with three dozen hazards, to farm meetings and events where either adults or young people will have time to look over his handiwork. His whole mission is to help farm families become more attune to the dangers that exist in their environment, especially if they are careless of don't pay careful attention to details.
One of the most intriguing parts of the display is a demonstration that involves two toy tractors. Both sit side by side. When someone wants to see the demonstration, he places an egg on the seat of each of two identical toy John Deere tractors. They're identical except that one has what is equivalent to a ROPS system in place, and the other doesn't. The one with the ROPS also has the equivalent of a seat belt that helps hold the egg in place when the going gets rough for the tractor.
Then he intentionally pushes both down his simulated hill. They tip over onto what resembles a metal baking sheet. The tractor with the egg strapped in with a seat belt, protected by a ROPS, flips over, but there is no yellow, squishy, gooey egg running from the scene. The egg representing the driver of the tractor is still intact.
Then he sends the second tractor down the same hill. When it tips over, the egg is crushed underneath before it can roll out. Yellow egg yolk oozes out to the side. The egg is cracked. He's even beyond the help of those who tried to restore Humpty Dumpty!
While the display may seem trivial, it's not, and it's not meant to make light of the potential for danger in operating tractors. Instead, the opposite is true, Rink insists. He wants people to see why ROPS protective frames and seat belts can save lives. The best practice would have been to keep the tractor away from the steep part of the field in the first place. But when an accident happens, it's important to have taken measures to prevent serious injury, he notes.
"About 25 people are killed each year in Indiana, according to statistics released by Purdue University," he says. "About half of those are in accidents related to tractors. Many of them are from tractor rollover accidents. Most of those could have been prevented."
Indeed, Purdue data for the past three decades and beyond shows that usually more than half of all farm fatalities in Indiana in any given year involve tractors. Tractor rollovers remain a leading cause of death. Many of them involve older tractors that are not equipped with ROPS protective devices.