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Save a life: use a tractor with ROPS

This week is farm safety week: a reminder to review safety plans, and prevent injuries that are avoidable

Tractor in ditch.
Tractor in ditch.

AMES – Agriculture remains the deadliest industry in the United States, based on the number of deaths per 100,000 workers. A leading cause of these fatalities is rollovers of tractors without rollover protective structures (ROPS). Even more heartbreaking is knowing that the majority of these accidents are preventable.

Sept. 15-21 marks the 76th observance of National Farm Safety and Health Week, and this year’s National Farm Safety Week theme, “Shift Farm Safety into High Gear,” gives Iowans an occasion to tune up their farm safety approach by upgrading basic safety equipment like ROPS on older tractors.

“Moving and positioning large bales, using front-end loader attachments, mowing roadside ditches, and cleanup of brush or trees are a few high fatality risk activities for using non-ROPS tractors,” said Charles Schwab, professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering with extension and outreach responsibilities at Iowa State University.

Schwab said that 99% of Iowa tractor overturn related deaths can be prevented by ROPS. Rollover protection structures (ROPS) are designed and tested to keep the tractor operator in a safe area during an overturn event.

Tractors manufactured since 1985 come with ROPS as part of their original equipment. However, there is still concern because tractors last a long time and many of the older models still have not been retrofitted with ROPS.

Choosing to operate a tractor without ROPS is gambling with your life, according to Schwab.

During a recent poll, 81% of Iowa farmers reported at least one tractor without ROPS on their farm.

“The good news is that about 19% of Iowa farmers have ROPS on all of their tractors,” said J. Arbuckle, associate professor and extension sociologist at Iowa State University.

Some of the reasons Iowa farmers have not considered retrofitting ROPS on older tractors were because they did not have hired help or children operating tractors, considered themselves as having enough experience to operate the tractor safely, or because their non-ROPS tractor is seldom used.

The poll also indicated that the biggest motivator for having ROPS on a tractor is because it came with ROPS.

Arbuckle and Schwab both agree that it is positive that Iowa farmers accept ROPS that come with tractors. However, they also agree there is plenty of work ahead in getting all tractors equipped with rollover protection.

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