Approximately 132 adults lose their lives on the American farm each year due to tractor roll-overs. Equipping all farm tractors with roll-over protective structures (ROPS) would reduce these deaths by 71% according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. If safety belts or other driver restraints were used in conjunction with ROPS, 100% of these deaths would be prevented, according to the agency.
ROPS were made available by the tractor manufacturing industry as optional safety equipment in 1971. These devices can be unenclosed -- resembling one or more exposed roll-over bars -- or enclosed in a tractor cab. Since 1976, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has required employers to equip all tractors manufactured after 1976 with ROPS and safety belts. Since 1985, virtually all new tractors sold in the United States have been equipped with ROPS and safety belts.
More than half of the 4.6 million tractors in use on American farms today, however, lack ROPS. Many farmers remove these safety devices, or they use tractors manufactured before 1976. It is estimated that 61% of the tractors in use today were manufactured before 1971.
NIOSH estimates that if all of the tractors made before 1971 lacked roll-over protection, another 2,800 people will die in roll-overs during the remainder of the expected 31-year life of these tractors.
To reduce injuries and deaths from roll-overs, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that all farm tractors be retrofitted with roll-over protective structures.