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Survey Findings Highlight Continued Need in Tractor Safety

NIOSH Update:

Contact: Fred Blosser (202) 260-8519
September 12, 1997

Findings from surveys in four states show a continued need to ensure that older farm tractors are retrofitted to protect operators from being killed or injured if a tractor rolls over during use, according to a new study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and several research partners.

The survey found that most older tractors still in use in Iowa, Kentucky, New York, and Ohio were not equipped with roll-over protective structures (ROPS), according to the study, published in the Sept. 12, 1997 issue of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention�s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Farm tractor rollovers account for about 130 work-related deaths every year. Although almost all new tractors sold in the U.S. since 1985 have been equipped with ROPS, millions of older tractors were not equipped with the devices and have not been retrofitted. Currently, many manufacturers offer ROPS retrofit kits, including seat belts, at cost as a way of encouraging retrofit of older tractors. However, no effective national program has been developed to promote retrofit and the associated use of seat belts.

“ROPS are an important and proven means of preventing work-related injuries from tractor rollovers,” said NIOSH Director Linda Rosenstock, M.D., M.P.H. “NIOSH is committed to working with its partners in the farming community to encourage the installation of ROPS on tractors and promote the use of seat belts with ROPS.”

The survey found comparable results in all four states studied: the proportion of older tractors without ROPS increases with age, and the number of older tractors still in use is substantial. Among tractors manufactured between 1955 and 1964 (approximately 15 percent of tractors now in use), fewer than 5 percent were equipped with ROPS. Among tractors manufactured before 1955 (approximately 13 percent of the tractors in use), fewer than 1 percent had ROPS.

Overall, the survey found that the percentage of tractors equipped with ROPS was 39.5 percent in Iowa, 26.9 percent in Kentucky, 38.6 percent in New York, and 34.3 percent in Ohio.

The findings in “Use of Rollover Protection Structures (ROPS) — Iowa, Kentucky, Ohio, New York, 1992-97,” were reported by researchers from NIOSH, the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, the University of Iowa, the University of Kentucky, Ohio State University, Cornell University, the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health, and the New York State Department of Health. The University of Iowa, with support from NIOSH and other organizations, is holding a national workshop, Tractor Risk Abatement and Control Policy Conference, on the development of innovative programs and policies to encourage the use of ROPS and seat belts on tractors.

For further information on the study and other NIOSH research on farm-related safety and health, call the toll-free NIOSH information number, 1-800-35-NIOSH (1-800-356-4674).