The occupational death rate on farms is nearly 800 percent greater than in all other industries combined. The leading cause of farm deaths is tractor rollovers. These incidents cost U.S. agriculture $115 million each year. Operators involved who survive these incidents lose an average of 70 work days, and the cost of a medical care, lost time, property damage is at least $900,000 per event.
“A properly designed and installed rollover protective structure (ROPS) used in combination with a seatbelt is almost 100 percent effective at preventing injury and death to the operator if a rollover happens,” said John Shutske, University of Wisconsin-Extension Bio Systems specialist at UW-Madison. “Still, about half of tractors on farms do not have rollover protection.”
To address this issue, and encourage and incentivize ag producers to add this important safety device, a variety of public and private organizations have come together to provide significant rebates to assist with the costs of installing a ROPS on unprotected tractors. One of the key partners with the National ROPS Rebate Program in Wisconsin is the National Farm Medicine Center in Marshfield, an important source of research and technical information on agricultural health issues and child safety.
The program offers up to a 70 percent rebate on ROPS and seatbelts that can be applied toward a ROPS kit (rollbar and seatbelt), shipping, and professional installation which is required in Wisconsin to receive the rebate. Nationally, the average out-of-pocket cost for those who have taken advantage of this opportunity is $391.
To be fully protective, a rollover protective structure must meet important design and performance standards that were developed and published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE). Machinery design engineers and safety experts from around the world review these standards and other agricultural safety design principles on a constant basis with the aim of protecting farmers, family members, and employees.
“Not all tractors can be equipped with a retrofit,” Shutske said. “Older, antique tractors often were not designed to accommodate a ROPS, and their axle housing often will not support a protective structure or have the ability to withstand the forces that occur with a rollover. Most tractors manufactured from the mid to late 1960s can be retrofitted as well as a few before that time.”
Application materials for this program can be found at https://www.ropsr4u.com/apply.php?state=WI; this website contains additional information and facts to help farmers and tractor owners to make smart and informed decisions.
Another resource for agricultural health and safety tips is the UW Center for Agricultural Safety and Health website https://fyi.extension.wisc.edu/agsafety/.