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Embracing Partnerships to Translate Research into Practice in Agriculture: Launching the National ROPS Rebate Program

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

Agricultural workers face myriad dangers each day, resulting in high injury and fatality rates. Unfortunately, high stress levels and competing demands often make it difficult for farmers to prioritize safety. Over the last several decades, researchers, industry partners, and farmers have been among those working together to reduce fatalities from tractor overturns at the national level. Collaborations like these are essential for identifying and implementing evidence-based solutions on a broad scale to successfully reduce the number and rate of these injuries and fatalities.

Tractor overturns have long been the leading cause of death on American farms. Still, several technological and other research-informed advances have helped protect farmers from these traumatic deaths. Rollover protective structures, called ROPS, were first introduced in the 1960s. They are 99% effective in preventing death and serious injury when used with a seatbelt [1]. ROPS have been standard on new tractors since 1985, yet many farmers still use older equipment that needs to be retrofitted. Only about 6 of every 10 tractors in the US are equipped with ROPS [2].

Beginning in 2004, the Northeast Center for Occupational Health and Safety (NEC) conducted considerable research to better understand the process farmers go through to retrofit a tractor with a ROPS and why farmers weren’t installing rollover protection [3]. Building on research by several NIOSH-funded Agriculture Safety and Health Centers and other researchers, a ROPS Rebate Program was launched in New York in 2006. The program offered cost-sharing, sourcing assistance, and targeted promotions [4-7]. Within the first year of the NY ROPS Rebate Program, ROPS sales increased tenfold [8]. By 2010, Program facilitators had already documented two lives saved as a direct result of the program, and a $3.75+ return on investment for every dollar spent on the Program [8].

Given the successes in New York, the NEC formed partnerships with agricultural universities, extension agencies, state departments of health, and state departments of agriculture in several other states. These partnerships led to the launch of six additional ROPS Rebate Programs between 2010 and 2016 [9, 10].

To date, over 2,300 ROPS have been installed on tractors in these seven states (NY, WI, VT, NH, PA, MA, MN). Program participants have reported 19 overturns or potentially life-threatening events in which the tractor operator was protected by the ROPS installed through the Program, as well as 221 close calls (such as instances in which tractor wheels lifted off the ground but the tractor did not roll).

Following these successes, in 2014, a multi-sector group of agricultural stakeholders formed the National Tractor Safety Coalition [11-13]. In addition to research and outreach organizations, the 70 member Coalition includes representatives from industry, government, financial services, health, and media sectors, as well as farmers themselves. With a wide range of expertise and experiences, the Coalition is well-suited to address ROPS technology and manufacturing issues, raise funds to support ROPS rebates, and promote the Program among farmers and other stakeholders.

Coalition leadership and the specific assistance from all those involved have been instrumental in launching the National ROPS Rebate Program on June 28th. Relationships across the Coalition have facilitated solutions to long-standing barriers individual farmers face when trying to retrofit, and that the prevention community has faced when trying to synergize efforts at the national level. For example, the Coalition coordinates a feedback loop that links industry partners and farmers, allowing manufacturers to respond to increases in ROPS demand and correct manufacturing issues reported by farmers.

The Program runs a website – www.ROPSr4u.com – and a toll-free helpline, 1-877-ROPS-R-4-U (1-877-767-7748), for farmers that facilitate all aspects of a retrofit, from locating the best ROPS model for the tractor to coordinating installation with a local shop. Perhaps most importantly, the Program provides a substantial rebate on the price of the ROPS and installation (the exact rebate varies by state but it is approximately 70%). The rebate lowers the price enough to put a ROPS retrofit within reach for most farmers. On average, past participants’ out-of-pocket cost has been about $391.

The National ROPS Rebate Program will continue operating in the seven states with current programs, and the Coalition will be working to expand to other states. The National Program will benefit from initial rebate funds thanks to a generous donation of $30,000 from Farm Family/American National Insurance Company. In addition, the Program funds have been supplemented with several smaller, tax-deductible donations from individuals.

Moving forward, the National Tractor Safety Coalition will continue to expand components of the National ROPS Rebate Program and secure state-based and national funding for rebates. If you would like to learn more about the effort or get involved in your state please contact Pam Tinc at pam.tinc@bassett.org or 800-343-7527.

 

Pam Tinc, MPH, Senior Research Coordinator and Julie Sorensen, PhD, Director, Northeast Center for Occupational Health and Safety: Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing.

 

References

  1. Swenson E: National Agricultural Tractor Safety Initiative. In. Edited by Swenson E: NIOSH Agricultural Safety and Health Centers; 2004.
  2. Murphy DJ, Myers J, McKenzie EA, Cavaletto R, May J, Sorensen J: Tractors and Rollover Protection in the United States. J Agromed 2010, 15(3):249-263.
  3. Sorensen J, May J, Jenkins P, Jones A, Earle-Richardson G: Risk perceptions, barriers, and motivators to tractor ROPS retrofitting in the New York state farm community. J Agric Safety Health 2006, 12(3):215-226.
  4. Sorensen J, Jenkins P, Emmelin M, Stenlund H, Weinehall L, Earle-Richardson G, May J: The social marketing of safety behaviors: a quasi-randomized controlled trial of tractor retrofitting incentives. Am J Public Health 2011, 101(4):678-684.
  5. Sorensen J, May J, Paap K, Purschwitz M, Emmelin M: Encouraging farmers to retrofit tractors: a qualitative analysis of risk perceptions among a group of high-risk farmers in New York. J Agric Safety Health 2008, 14(1):105-117.
  6. Sorensen JA, May J, O’Hara R, Ostby R, Lehman T, Viebrock S, Emmelin M: Evaluating Tractor Safety Messages: A Concept Development Project. Social Marketing Q 2008, 14(4):22-44.
  7. Sorensen JA, May J, Ostby-Malling R, Lehmen T, Strand J, Stenlund H, Weinehall L, Emmelin M: Encouraging the installation of rollover protective structures in New York State: the design of a social marketing intervention. Scand J Public Health 2008, 36(8):859-869.
  8. Sorensen JA, Jenkins P, Bayes B, Clark S, May JJ: Cost-effectiveness of a ROPS social marketing campaign. J Agric Saf Health 2010, 16(1):31-40.
  9. Jenkins P, Sorensen J, Yoder A, Myers M, Murphy D, Cook G, Wright F, Bayes B, May J: Prominent barriers and motivators to installing ROPS: an analysis of survey responses from Pennsylvania and Vermont. J Agric Saf Health 2012, 18(2):103-112.
  10. National ROPS Rebate Program [https://www.nycamhoutreach.com/ropsr4u/]
  11. Tinc P, Ayers P, May J, Purschwitz M, Sorensen J: Creating a national coalition to address tractor overturn fatalities. J Agric Saf Health 2015, 21(2):105-112.
  12. Tinc PJ, Ayers P, May JJ, Purschwitz MA, Park S, Bayes B, Sorensen J: Implementing a National Tractor Safety Program: Using “Whole System in a Room” to Mobilize Partners and Implement Solutions. J Agromedicine 2016.
  13. Sorensen J, Tinc P: The National Tractor Safety Coalition: Taking a new systems-approach to a well-known problem. In: NIOSH Science Blog. vol. 2015. Atlanta, GA: Center for Disease Control; 2014.

 

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

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