– The Delphos Herald • Farm Safety • September 2013
Tractors are common to all farm operations.They also are the major cause of death in ag-riculture today. Tractors are linked to morethan half of farm-related deaths, both nation-ally and in Iowa. The National Safety Councilestimates more than 100 people were killed in2004 while operating a tractor.About half of those deaths were the resultof a tractor rollover.
Use tractors with ROPS to save lives
The high death rate associated with tractorrollovers is not a new problem. Since 1970,tractor rollover has been the leading cause of farm operator deaths, according to the Na-tional Safety Council. Statistics from tractorrollover injuries show that about five peopleare killed each year for every 100,000 tractorsin operation.The cumulative death toll from tractor roll-overs since the development of the tractor isstaggering.
What is ROPS?
ROPS, or rollover protective structure, is acab or frame that provides a safe environmentfor the tractor operator in the event of a roll-over. Also called antiroll bars or ROPS cabs,all are designed to prevent death and minimizeinjury.However, the first ROPS device was notmarketed on new tractors until 1965.Many old tractors used today do not haveROPS.The ROPS frame must pass a series of staticor dynamic crush tests. These tests e tandvarious loads to see if the protective zonearound the operator station remains intact inan overturn.The tests are extensive and destroy the roll-over protective structure. A homemade bar at-tached to the tractor axle, or simple sun shades,cannot protect the operator if the tractor over-turns. Farm operators should not add theirown rollover protection devices to tractorsmanufactured without ROPS. Without properdesign and testing, homemade devices offer afalse sense of security that can be more dan-gerous than operating a tractor without ROPS.The Society of Automotive Engineers and theAmerican Society of Agricultural Engineershave standards on the design of rollover pro-tective structures.Use seat belts with ROPS ROPS affordssome safety during tractor overturns, but op-erators need more protection. All operators of tractors equipped with ROPS must wear seatbelts. Without a seat belt, the operator will notbe confined to the protective zone created bythe ROPS. During an overturn, the operator of a tractor with ROPS could be thrown from theprotected area and crushed by the tractor, oreven the rollover protective structure itself, if the operator is not wearing a seat belt. Neveruse seat belts on a tractor without ROPS. Inthis case, the operator has no chance of surviv-al because the seat belt will keep the operatorin the seat as the tractor rolls over and crushesthe operator. It is not certain whether the opera-tor would be thrown clear from the tractor if seat belts were not worn, but that remains theoperator’s only chance of survival.
Reduce your rollover risks
There are several ways to reduce the pos-sibility of tractor rollovers. However,thesesafety practices are not a substitute for ROPS.Follow these tips and use seat belts on tractorsequipped with ROPS to keep operators safe.• Avoid sharp turns and reduce speed whenturning. A tractor has a high center of gravityand can tip. Compare the shape of a tractor anda race car—race cars can turn at high speedsbecause they are low to the road; a tractor can-not turn quickly without overturning because itsits high above the road.• Avoid driving on steep embankments,near ditches, and around holes. These areas areprone to rollovers. The ground can give wayand the tractor will lose support and roll over.When conditions require operation on steepslopes, always head down slopes and travelbackward up slopes. This will place the tractorin a more stable position and reduce rolloverrisks.• Hitch only to a drawbar. Many injuriesoccur when loads are hitched to the axle hous-ing or other parts of the tractor. If you have athree-point hitch on your tractor, use it onlywith implements designed for a three-pointhitch. If you attach implements to somethinghigher than a drawbar, you can cause the trac-tor to roll over
New equipment with ROPS
In 1985, tractor manufacturers adopt-ed a voluntary standard to sell all tractorswith ROPS in place. All new tractors areequipped at the factory with ROPS. TheROPSmay be part of the cab structure and may not bevisible, but the protection will be there.Tractors made more than 40 years ago withoutadvances in safety technology are operationaltoday. It is estimated that less than one-thirdof the 4.4 million tractors used for agriculturalpurposes have ROPS. Older tractors often areused in situations typically associated withtractor rollover injuries, such as mowing theroad ditch area, using a front-end loader, andhauling fallen trees.
Retrofit older tractors
Older tractors can be retrofitted with rolloverprotective structures. Check with your localdealer for manufacturers, models, and approxi-mate costs of obtaining retrofit ROPS for trac-tors. Retrofitting can pose a difficult decisionbecause its cost for an older tractor can exceedthe machine’s actual value. However, the truecost is in the lives that could be saved.
You can reduce your risk of being in- jured or killed while operating a tractor.Check your operation for the followingitems.• Identify all tractors in your opera-tion that have ROPS; check forseat belts.• Post a reminder on tractors withROPS for operators to wear a seatbelt.• Make a long-rangeplan to phaseout or retrofit all tractors withoutROPS.• Identify tasks that would take youover steep embankments, nearditches, around holes, and otherareas prone to tractor rollovers.Instruct everyone who operates atractor in these areas to use onlytractors with ROPS and seat belts.
What can you do?
MIKE & JAN BOCKEY
•GPS GUIDANCE •VARIABLE RATE TECHNOLOGY
9339 Brickner RoadDelphos, OH 45833
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