The National Tractor Safety Coalition: Taking a new systems-approach to a well-known problem

Posted on by Julie Sorensen, PhD and Pam Tinc, MPH

The agriculture industry is widely recognized for its high work-related fatal injury rates, which are estimated to be 20.2 deaths per 100,000 workers (compared to 3.2 per 100,000 workers for all workers).[i] Tractor overturns are the most frequent cause of farm fatalities, yet they can be readily addressed with the presence of a roll-bar and seatbelt (referred to as a rollover protective structure system or ROPS).[ii] Unfortunately, roughly 40% of U.S. tractors lack these protective devices. Older farmers, part-time farmers, and low-income farms are most frequently lacking ROPS protection.[iii]

Over the past decade, local and regional programs have combined cost-sharing rebates and promotion to encourage ROPS installations.[ii] These programs have been highly rated by participants (99% would recommend the program to other farmers[iii]) and have demonstrated that the financial benefits in lives saved far outweigh program investments[iv] yet, a national program of this type has yet to be implemented.

Scaling up local and regional rebate programs to the national level requires the mobilization of resources and expertise from many agricultural stakeholder groups, in particular to meet the two greatest challenges anticipated: securing an adequate supply of the specific ROPS needed to retrofit older tractors across the US, and securing a national funding source to cover the considerable cost of rebates. Once solutions to these two major challenges are found, a diverse national coalition will be able to implement what is already known about marketing and promotion of ROPS[v] to high-risk farmers across the country. To this end, the National Tractor Safety Coalition Steering Committee, a core group of 12 multi-sector organizations, hosted a retreat in Chicago, IL on May 21 and 22 to further a National ROPS Initiative . Representatives from roughly 50 organizations attended, including manufacturers and dealers, financial and insurance groups, private corporations, and the media in addition to the agricultural and health and safety research, practice, and advocacy organizations more commonly associated with this type of effort.

This landmark event utilized a proven “Systems Thinking” methodology called Whole-System-in-the-Room (WSR). This method harnesses the potential and collective power of the various institutions and individuals in a system to self-organize toward a common goal.[vi] The National Tractor Safety Coalition Chicago retreat marked the first time Whole-System-in-the-Room methods have been used to address an agricultural safety issue in the United States.

By the end of the retreat, participants had identified common goals and outlined the commitments they were willing to make in pursuit of their shared goals. Shared goals included: 1) Developing a National ROPS Initiative structure and method of implementation, 2) Developing educational materials and promoting awareness, 3) Raising funds to support these efforts, 4) Increasing opportunities for collaboration, 5) Coordinating data collection and data reporting to evaluate and facilitate the implementation process, and 6) Ensuring a reliable and cost-effective supply of ROPS.

In the weeks and months ahead, National Tractor Safety Coalition members will work toward these common goals via smaller task forces. The Coalition would also like to expand the number of organizations participating. If you or your organization would like to join this exciting and historic endeavor, please contact Pam Tinc at or 800-343-7527.


Julie Sorensen, PhD and Pam Tinc, MPH

Dr. Sorensen is the Director and Ms. Tinc is the  Research Coordinator for the Northeast Center for Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing Safety and Health/New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health.



[i] National Safety Council. Injury facts, 2012 Edition. Itasca, IL: National Safety Council. 2012.

[ii] Murphy DJ, Myers J, McKenzie EA, Cavaletto R, May J, and Sorensen J. Tractors and rollover protection in the United States. J. Agromed. 2010; 15: 249-263.

[iii] Personal communication from Barbara Bayes, project coordinator for the Multi-state ROPS initiative (, from unpublished program data

[iv] Sorensen JA, Jenkins P, Bayes B, Clark S, and May JJ. Cost-effectiveness of a ROPS social marketing campaign. J. Agric. Safety and Health. 2010; 16(1): 31-40.

[v] Sorensen JA, O’Hara P, Ostby R, Lehman T, Viebrock S, May JJ. Emmelin M. 2008. Designing Convincing Tractor Safety Messages: A Concept Development Project. Social Marketing Quarterly. 14(4):22-44; Sorensen JA, May J, Ostby-Malling R, Lehmen T, Strand J, Stenlund H, Weinehall L, Emmelin M. 2008. Encouraging the Installation of Rollover Protective Structures in New York State: The Design of a Social Marketing Intervention. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health. 36:859-69.

[vi] Weisbord M and Janoff S. Get the whole system in the room. J. Quality and Participation. 2007; 30(3): 4-8.

Posted on by Julie Sorensen, PhD and Pam Tinc, MPH

3 comments on “The National Tractor Safety Coalition: Taking a new systems-approach to a well-known problem”

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

    Safety collation voice must be raised and i am inspired that you have taken step to write on the issue. Very well written, Than you

    Safety on tractors is an issue that must be addressed worldwide and it is good that the steps to implement safer standards have been implemented.

    Yes, it’s correct. Safety in the tractor is as much as important as in other vehicles. We need to be alert and updated always.

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Page last reviewed: December 7, 2016
Page last updated: December 7, 2016