Tractor rollover protection shows ‘every farmer counts’

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The 77th observance of National Farm Safety and Health Week was marked Sept. 20-26, and this year’s theme, “Every farmer counts,” gave Iowa's farm workers a chance to be counted as people who choose safety and use a tractor with ROPS. Photo courtesy Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

AMES, Iowa — A leading cause of Iowa farm fatalities is tractors not equipped with a rollover protective structures (ROPS), with about one-third of all annual agricultural deaths in Iowa attributed to this single safety hazard.

Rollovers are also known to represent the largest share of these tragic losses across the country in the agricultural industry.

“Even more distressing is knowing that seven of 10 farms will go out of business within five years of a tractor overturn fatality,” said Charles Schwab, professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering with extension and outreach responsibilities at Iowa State University.

The 77th observance of National Farm Safety and Health Week was marked Sept. 20-26, and this year’s theme, “Every farmer counts,” gave Iowa’s farm workers a chance to be counted as people who choose safety and use a tractor with ROPS.

All agricultural tractors built since 1985 have ROPS as part of their original equipment, but there are too many older tractors without ROPS used during harvest time. Operators should look for the two-post or four-post ROPS or decal identifying the integrated ROPS cab before operating any tractor this fall.

There are many reasons why some tractors do not have ROPS and why Iowa farmers have not considered retrofitting ROPS, but none can offset the risk to the tractor operator’s life, Schwab said.

ROPS are designed and tested to keep the tractor operator from being crushed by the weight of the tractor as it rolls, he said. The addition of ROPS also keeps a tractor from rotating more than 90 degrees during most rollover events.

All known Iowa tractor overturn fatalities have occurred on tractors without ROPS.

“Increase your odds of survival during this harvest by choosing to use only tractors with ROPS,” Schwab said.

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