According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), tractor overturns are the leading cause of occupational agricultural deaths. Nearly 1,500 farm workers died from tractor overturns between 1992 and 2005.
NIOSH says if all tractors are equipped with a roll-over protective structure (ROPS), that the fatality rates caused by overturns could be reduced by at least 71 percent. This percentage is even higher if the tractor is also equipped with a seatbelt.
Although data has shown that more farmers are starting to equip ROPS on their tractors, the rate at which this safety feature is being adopted is very slow. As of 2006, 59 percent of tractors have been equipped with ROPS.
NIOSH says that there are common reasons why farmers with older tractors do not equip their tractors with ROPS:
- ROPS make the tractor too tall to enter farm buildings or have low clearance areas
- Older farmers believe that ROPS are unnecessary since they and their workers know how to drive the tractors
- It is inconvenient to spend time and money equipping ROPS on their tractors
Are Tractors Required to Have Certain Safety Features?
Federal regulations have required all employee-operated tractors built after 1976 to be equipped with safety belts and ROPS. However, NIOSH says that this safety regulation does not apply to family-owned farms. Moreover, farms with fewer than 11 full-time employees are not regulated by that rule.
Since tractors stay in service for many years, there are tractors built before 1976 that are still operating to this day and are not required to have ROPS.
NIOSH believes that there should be incentive programs for farmers to have their older tractors equipped with ROPS and safety belts. Otherwise, workers killed by tractors overturning will continue to happen.
The Law Offices of Aaron Allison – Austin Workers’ Compensation Attorney