COLUMBIA, Mo. – Since 2016, more than 70 Missouri farmers asked for help to install tractor rollover protection (ROP) devices from a national program that provides rebates, but the waiting list is long, and only one Missouri farmer has received assistance so far.
University of Missouri Extension health and safety specialist Karen Funkenbusch says this is troubling since 27 Missouri farmers died in tractor rollover accidents from 2011 to 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The National ROP rebate program website estimates the cost of retrofitting a tractor with a roll bar at $1,200. See ropsr4u.org/donate.php.
Several states, including New York, New Hampshire, Vermont and Pennsylvania, offer rebate programs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates a reduction in rollover fatalities in these states.
Funkenbusch is part of a group of agricultural professionals across the nation pushing for rebate programs to protect rural families and economies.
One in 10 tractor operators overturns a tractor in his or her lifetime. Fatal tractor rollovers happen most often in tractors made before 1985, the year ROP devices started being mandated on new tractors. Many of these older tractors remain in use on Missouri farms and ranches.
ROPs are built of high-grade steel and engineered to provide the operator with a zone of protection. ROPS limit most rolls to a 90-degree side flop.
Death and disability have economic consequences in addition to the great emotional toll they take. According to Penn State Cooperative Extension, 70% of farms go out of business within five years of a fatal rollover accident. That is because a farm fatality costs the family and society an estimated $900,000, in addition to the loss of agricultural knowledge and management experience.
Fortunately, rollover accidents are almost completely survivable when rollover protection devices are installed and seat belts are used, says Funkenbusch.
During National Farm Safety and Health Week Sept. 18-24, Funkenbusch also offers these suggestions for safe tractor operation:
• Stay alert. Do not operate equipment when tired or when using medication that impairs alertness.
• Discourage riders. Tractors are designed for a single person.
• Always wear a seat belt.
• Match speed to conditions and loads.
• Take curves slowly. Avoid sudden turns, starts or stops.
• Avoid uneven braking.
• Avoid slopes that reduce the tractor’s stability.
• Do not drive with the front-end transport or loading attachments raised and loaded. Keep the loader as low as possible.
• Slow down when making turns or crossing slopes, especially on slick or muddy surfaces.
• Watch for ditches, holes and rocks that can cause the tractor to tip. Drive around them.
• Use appropriate tire ballast and frame weightsto increase stability.
• Do not coast downhill.
• National Farm Safety and Health Week, necasag.org/
• Show-Me Farm Safety, farmsafety.mo.gov
• Missouri AgrAbility, agrability.missouri.edu
— MU Extension