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Tractor Rollovers – one of the deadliest Farm hazards

June 13, 2016

indiana-734015Farming and Agribusiness has changed dramatically over the past century.  Many tasks once done by human hands are now done by large equipment.  Even though manufacturers of this equipment strive to ensure their products are safe by installing safety guards, warning labels and other stop gaps – farming presents many dangers.  Often times, injuries occur because of shortcuts taken, ignoring warning signs, and simply not following safety protocols.  Human error accounts for the majority of injuries.

According to the US Bureau of Labor statistics, US Department of Labor (2012), Agriculture has the highest fatal work injury rate (24.4 per 100,000 full time workers) of all industries.  Among specific occupations, farmers ranked 7th in 2011 for fatal work injuries. Farmers are only surpassed by professional commercial truck drivers. With all the hazards to be found on a farm, accidents caused by tractor related incidents are the leading cause of fatalities – over 300 a year.

Acadia Insurance offers this insight…

Since the largest contributor to tractor deaths is roll-overs, why are “all” tractors not equipped with the ROPS (Roll Over Protective Structure) system? There are several reasons:

  • Since 1976, OSHA required that all “employee – operated” tractors be equipped with ROPS and seat belts. But this does not apply to family members on family farms;
  • The standard has not been enforced in 47 of the 50 states;
  • Many older tractors have not been retrofitted, either due to cost or perceived inconvenience.

How can a farmer minimize the risk of tractor accidents? Here is a list of actions that can have a positive impact on safety:

  • Know how to operate the tractor safely – the experienced farmer likely knows this. However, it is important to focus on new operators. On a large, level yard or field, with ample space to operate and without any equipment attached
  • Preventive Maintenance – a tractor in good repair is a safer tractor. Check tire condition and inflation – make sure all fluids are up to standards and be ABSOLUTELY sure all protective shields are in place
  • Check what you are wearing: good fitting clothes, nothing loose or bulky that can get caught in moving parts. Shoes with non-slip soles are important. Long hair should be safely under a hat to avoid getting loose hair caught in machinery.
  • Safe Refueling: Use the same common sense as you would fueling your car at a gas station – engine off, eliminate any static electricity, refuel outside – no smoking and no cell phone usage.
  • Have a first aid kit and at least one 5 pound ABC dry chemical extinguisher on board.
  • Keep the Power-Takeoff (PTO) shaft guarded with the shields and guard that came with the tractor. If they are lost or broken replace them. It may save you an arm or a leg!
  • Safety on Public Roads – Use all required and available safety devices and driving skills when operating tractors on public roads. The risk is high! Roll-over protection, safety hitch, SMV emblem, rear-view mirrors, signal lights, hand signals, clearance lights and/or reflectors are all aids to safety on the roadways.

Other Basic Safety Practices

No extra riders. And just as important, do not ask to be an extra rider. If the tractor has a cab with seating for two – OK and use the seat belts!

Stuck in a hole – it is probably best to get help.

Hitch equipment only to the drawbar.

Keep away from ditches and embankment edges. If a piece of attached equipment goes over, the tractor will likely follow.

When using a loader – move and turn slowly, keep load low when moving, add rear weights, keep wheels wide and lower bucket to ground when parking or servicing.

Drive at a safe speed.

Watch for rocks, stumps, holes, slopes and hillsides. Keep wheels wide. Be sure you know how to maneuver up and down hills. The majority of overturns happen on slopes and hills.

The Human Factor – Knowing what to do and how to do it goes a long way to ensure safe tractor operation. Another vital factor is you, the operator. It is important to be in good physical and emotional condition when you are operating a tractor. If you are ill, tired, angry, emotionally upset, or if your mind is on something else, you could make a fatal mistake.

At Founders Insurance Agency, we are strong supporters of our local farmers and we want them to be safe! Please be respectful of dangerous farm equipment and for our non-farming friends – give generous room to tractors on our highways and local roadways.


Adam Winters

Commercial Lines Account Manager

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