Extension Ag Update
November/December 2003
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ROPS Are Available...Affordable...and Able to Save Lives!

ROPS, or Rollover Protective Structure, is a cab or frame that provides a safe environment for the tractor operator in the event of a rollover. One of every 16 Illinois farm families will have a major farm accident this year. The leading cause of farm related deaths in Illinois are tractor roll-overs, which account for more than 30 percent of farm-related deaths. In Illinois, 49 percent of farm tractors do not have rollover protective structures (ROPS). If all of your tractors are not equipped with ROPS, you and your family are exposing yourselves to unnecessary risk. ROPS affords some safety during tractor overturns, but operators need more protection. All operators of tractors equipped with ROPS much wear seat belts. Without a seat belt, the operator will not be confined to the protective zone.

Reduce Your Rollover Risk
There are several ways to reduce the possibility of tractor rollovers. However, these safety practices are not a substitute for ROPS. Follow these tips, and use seat belts on tractors equipped with ROPS, to keep operators safe.

  • Reduce speed on rough ground or in areas where holes or stumps might be located.
  • Reduce speed on slopes where the major hazards are often unseen depressions, rocks, and stumps.
  • When working on grades or slopes, increase stability by adding from or rear wheel weights to counterbalance front or rear mounted implements and heavy drawbar loads.
  • Stay clear of ditches, embankments, stumps, rocks, and other obstacles.
  • Turn slowly; sudden turns create an unstable condition due to centrifugal force.
  • Always hitch the load only to the tractor draw bar. Do not hitch to the axle or to the top link attaching point.
  • Avoid turning uphill when operating on slopes. If you must turn uphill, slow down and turn as gradually as possible.
  • Operate front end loaders and transport front end loads with the bucket as low as possible. Raise only when necessary to dump.
  • When operating an unfamiliar tractor, operate much slower than normal until you gain experience with the controls and operating characteristics of that tractor.
  • Lock brake pedals together before driving at transport speeds.

What You Can Do
You can reduce your risk of being injured or killed while operating a tractor. Check your operation for the following items.

  • Identify all tractors in your operation that have ROPS; check for seat belts.
  • Post a reminder on tractors with ROPS for operators to wear a sear belt.
  • Make a long-range plan to phase out or retrofit all tractors without ROPS.
  • Identify tasks that would take you over steep embankments, near ditches, around holes, and other areas prone to tractor rollovers.
  • Instruct everyone who operates a tractor in these areas to use only tractors with ROPS and seatbelts.
  • Establish a "No Rider" policy for tractors - especially for children.

Retrofit Older Tractors
Older tractors can be retrofitted with rollover protective structures. Check with your local dealer or Extension office. A book complied by the Marshfield Clinic that lists manufacturers, models, and approximate costs of obtaining retrofit ROPS for tractors is available through the State Extension Safety Specialist, who can be contacted through your local Extension office. Retrofitting can pose a difficult decision because the cost for an older tractor can exceed the machine's actual value. However, the true cost is in the lives that could be saved.

For more information, contact the University of Illinois Extension Safety Specialist, 360 T Agriculture Engineering Sciences Building, 1304 W. Pennsylvania Ave., Urbana, IL 61801, 217-333-9417 or check the website at http://www.age.uiuc.edu/agsafety/factshts.html.