Despite a decades-long effort to raise awareness about the importance of roll over protective structures (ROPS) in preventing injury and death from tractor roll overs, tractor overturns continue to be the leading cause of occupational agricultural death in the United States.
While all tractors produced since 1986 come with ROPS as standard equipment, farm tractors have a long life span. Unless a tractor has been retrofitted, operators of older tractors are unprotected during rollovers. We know there are various reasons for the reluctance to retrofit older tractors with ROPS. We’ve heard them all: “They cost too much.” “They are too much of a hassle to find/install.” “My dad/grandpa/ mother/uncle never used them and they never had a problem.” The fact remains that farmworkers continue to die while working on unprotected tractors.
To address some of these concerns NIOSH has developed Cost-effective ROPS (CROPS) as an alternative to the commercially available ROPS which may be hard to find, or as an option for older wheeled agricultural tractors for which ROPS are not commercially available. The selection of CROPS can also be an alternative for users who do not wish to use an off-the-shelf ROPS. The CROPS are typically less costly to manufacture, ship, and handle than commercially available ROPS structures. CROPS are designed to be constructed by the user or owner of the tractor, using parts that have been specified by NIOSH as meeting design and safety standards. Some parts must be manufactured by a qualified fabricator while others must be welded by a professional welder using proper procedures. As you would expect, the CROPS have been successfully tested to industry standards. The CROPS designs, installation instructions, industry-standard testing results, and other information are available at the NIOSH CROPS topic page.
During the creation and testing of the CROPS, NIOSH partnered with stakeholders, sponsored focused research, and oversaw the installation of CROPS on more than 70 tractors in New York, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. We have solicited expert opinion from vendors, tractor users in the agriculture community, and other affected parties.
We hope that by listening to farmers’ needs and concerns and providing another alternative, we can increase the use of roll over protection. We know that older farm tractors remain a valuable asset to the farming community for countless reasons, including providing a link to the past and the history of farming as well as providing a reliable and economical source of help to farmers. Please help us keep America’s farmers and farm workers safe. Send this information to anyone who can help encourage the retrofitting of tractors without ROPS.
We would also like to hear from users as well as those reluctant to retrofit their tractors. Tell us what you like or don’t like about the CROPS. What may prevent you from retrofitting your tractor?
We would also like to request that manufacturers and fabricators of tractor parts, retrofit equipment and safety equipment, consider both fabricating CROPS and adding CROPS to their replacement and add-on parts list. There are many reasons to do so. CROPS will not require the payment of royalties, is urgently needed and demanded by a sizeable population of tractor owners, and numerous agencies will inform users of CROPS availability.
Please consider joining with us in this opportunity to make the farm a safer place to live and work. We would like to hear your success stories or ideas about how to encourage the retrofitting of ROPS on older farm tractors to protect America’s farmers and farm workers from injury and death due to tractor overturns.
Paul R. Keane, MBA and Tony McKenzie, PhD
Mr. Keane is a Health Communication Specialist in the NIOSH Division of Safety Research.
Dr. McKenzie is a Research Safety Engineer in the NIOSH Division of Safety Research.
*This project won a 2013 NIOSH Bullard-Sherwood Research-to-Practice (r2p) Award which recognizes outstanding efforts by NIOSH scientists and their partners in applying occupational safety and health research to prevent work-related injury, illness, and death.