Biological Systems Engineering, Department of


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Published in Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health 15(1): 3-4. Copyright © ASABE. Used by permission.


In North America, agricultural is one of the most hazardous occupations, trailing only mining and construction in likelihood of experiencing a serious injury or fatality. Without quoting specific statistics, roughly one-half of the serious injuries experienced each year involve an agricultural tractor, and roughly one-half of the serious injuries involving tractors are rollovers. It is well established that when a tractor is equipped with a rollover protective structure (ROPS) and seatbelt, and both are utilized, serious injuries rarely, if ever occur, in the event of an overturn. In fact, tractor overturns are the leading cause of agricultural fatalities in the United States. Loringer and Myers (2008) have studied the population of ROPS-equipped tractors and have estimated that as of 2004, only 51% of tractors in service were equipped with ROPS. Predictions based on past experience suggest that it will be 2024 before 75% of the tractors in service will be equipped with ROPS if no other actions are taken. While this problem is indeed a large rock protruding through the water, it is worthwhile to begin to explore what other rocks lay below the surface so that effective strategies can be developed to address them as the water level drops.
Myers has collected and presented data on the ages of tractors and whether or not they were ROPS equipped. In 1975, OSHA promulgated rules requiring ROPS on agricultural tractors. In 1985, ASAE S318.10 was introduced to require ROPS on all tractors for the first time. It would seem, therefore, reasonable to assume that all tractors placed in service since 1985 are ROPS equipped. However, a review of the Myers data shows that this is not the case. For tractors in service for 0 to 4 years, only 93.8% are reported to be ROPS equipped. For tractors in service for 5 to 9 years, only 92.8% are reported to have a ROPS. It would appear that if all tractors in service were to be sold with ROPS, then long term 6% to 7% would be operated without ROPS. Using the Myers data and assumptions, this would lead to 18 to 20 deaths per year due to rollovers.