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Tractor overturns: What do you need to know?

Whether you operate tractors on a farm or own, operate and/or manage a farm, it is important that you understand the risks associated with tractors and what you can do to reduce injury and death. One of the greatest risks of operating a tractor is tractor overturn.

Tractor overturns are the leading cause of fatal injuries on farms in the United States, resulting in an average of 130 deaths per year. The Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health explores the data associated with tractor overturns, who is at risk and how owners and operators can prevent deadly accidents.

Tractor overturn statistics

Tractor overturns are more common than most operators and farm owners like to think. According to the data, one in 10 operators will experience an overturn event in his or her lifetime. Experience is not enough to prevent overturns. In fact, 80% of overturn deaths involve experienced operators.

Overturn accidents are not just dangerous. They are also costly. One in seven farmers that are involved in an overturn accident sustains a permanent disability, the costs for which workers’ compensation or the farm owner must cover. Seven in 10 farms close down within five years following a tractor-related fatality.

Risk factors for overturns

Tractor overturns can happen to any operator in any industry in any location. However, some people are more at risk of overturns than others. The top risk factors for tractor overturns are as follows:

  • Involvement in crop production
  • Location in the Northeast, South or Midwest regions of the United States
  • Older age
  • Family relation to the farm owners

The age of a tractor also plays a role in overturn deaths. Farmers who operate older tractors that do not have Roll-Over Protective Structures have a higher risk of sustaining a fatal injury in an accident.

How ROPS prevent deaths

ROPS are cage frames or roll bar structures that tractor manufacturers designed specifically to protect operators in the event of rollovers. While ROPS cannot prevent overturns, they can limit the degree of a rollover to 90 degrees. When used in conjunction with seatbelts, ROPS prevents serious injury and fatalities in 99% of overturn incidences. Tractors started coming equipped with ROPS in the late 1980s. Tractors produced before then do not contain ROPS.

Overturns are costly and deadly. Persons injured in a rollover accident or who lost a loved one in a tractor-related accident should seek to understand their legal rights.