Today I’d like to share a video of a demo created by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Farm and Home Safety Program that demonstrates why seat belts and rollover protection structures(ROPS) are needed to protect the driver during a rollover. Tractor rollover is still the leading cause of occupational fatalities for farmers. The number of tractors with ROPS has increased substantially because ROPS have been required on new tractors since 1985, but the rate of rollover fatalities has not decreased significantly. Part of the reason they haven’t decreased is that farmers either aren’t using ROPS or because they’re not using seat belts to keep them within the protected area. This demo shows a tractor without a cab, but a seat belt is necessary for cab-type ROPS to be effective too because it’s possible to be ejected from the cab (especially if the windows are open or break during a rollover) and to be seriously injured if you’re not secure within the cab. A 2002 study published in the Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health (JASH) found that of 19 cases of tractor rollover where the operator was using ROPS and a seat belt, 18 escaped with no injuries or minor injuries and 1 received outpatient care. Of the 41 cases of rollover with ROPS and no seatbelt, 12 operators required outpatient care or were hospitalized. (Source).
Another thing that this video shows is that wearing a seatbelt on a tractor without ROPS may increase the risk of serious injury because it holds the operator in the crush zone. The same JASH study found that two of the three operators who were wearing seat belts on tractors without ROPS during a rollover suffered a permanent disability. Out of 442 cases of rollover with no ROPS and no seatbelt, 203 operators suffered an injury requiring medical treatment, including 12 cases resulting in disability and 24 deaths. Having ROPS is by far safer than going without, but be aware that using a seat belt on a tractor without ROPS might further increase the risk of serious injury.
In short, wearing a seat belt and having ROPS installed drastically reduces your risk of being seriously or fatally injured on the farm. Many of us already have tractors with ROPS, so from there wearing a seat belt is a small change that drastically reduces your risk.
Have a tractor without ROPS? Check out the National ROPS Rebate Program here: Link to Natonal ROPS Rebate Program
Here is a link to another summary article by the University of Illinois Extension Program about ROPS and preventing rollovers: Link to Illinois Extension ROPS/Rollover prevention article