UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Farmers in Pennsylvania can get state reimbursement to pay for retrofitting their older tractors with life-saving rollover-protection structures — often referred to as ROPS — aided by a new Penn State program.
Tractor rollovers are the most frequent cause of death on farms, greatly contributing to the occupational fatality rate for farmers that is 800% higher than other industries, according to Judd Michael, professor of agricultural and biological engineering. He added that seven out of 10 farms go out of business within five years of a tractor-overturn fatality.
Roughly half of the tractors in the U.S. are unprotected, noted Michael, Nationwide Insurance Professor of Ag Safety and Health in the College of Agricultural Sciences, who is coordinating the Penn State program. It channels funds for tractor rollover protection structures from a three-year $250,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.
The grant was received in part due to the efforts of Pennsylvania legislators and farmers who pushed for the funding that could save many lives. Michael noted that 26 Pennsylvania farmers are thought to have died during the 2015-21 period from roll-overs in tractors that did not have a ROPS device.
ROPS are 99% effective in preventing injury or death in the event of a tractor overturn when used with a seatbelt, Michael pointed out. “We encourage all Pennsylvania farmers to take advantage of this free program to retrofit their older tractors with a ROPS system that is proven to be a lifesaver,” he said. “Farmers are eligible for a 70% reimbursement through the Penn State program for the average $1,200 cost of the ROPS, with a $500 cap on their out-of-pocket costs.”
Penn State’s Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering is partnering with the
Northeast Center for Occupational Health and Safety to administer the initiative. Interested parties should go to https://www.ropsr4u.org/ to learn more about the ROPS program, get on the waiting list and be approved for funding. They can also email Peggy Newel at firstname.lastname@example.org to request more information.
“There is currently a wait list of more than 200 Pennsylvania farmers, so others wanting to be added to the list should apply as soon as possible, due to it being a first-come, first-serve system,” Michael said. “The first third of the farmers on the list can expect to receive correspondence notifying them of the availability of funds before the end of December.”
The Pennsylvania effort is part of the National ROPS Rebate Program. In just over 13 years (2006-19), more than 2,950 tractors have been retrofitted in 17 states. The National ROPS Rebate Program is an effort supported and guided by members of the National Tractor Safety Coalition, an organization with representation from nearly 60 multi-sector industry and advocacy groups, including Penn State.
Funds from the DCED grant will also be combined with the Nationwide Insurance endowment to continue research aimed at understanding farmers’ use of ROPS systems and the underlying causes of tractor-related incidents.
–Jeff Mulhollem, Penn State University