Tractor Safety: Rollover Protection

Rollover Protection Provides Peace of Mind

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: Daniel Johnson

Tractor safety should always be top of mind, especially when rollovers can result in injuries and even death. Yes, tractor attachments like front-end loaders and backhoes are awesome and fun to discuss, but perhaps the greatest tractor accessory ever designed is the rollover protection structure (ROPS), also known as the rollover protection system.

What is a ROPS?

A ROPS is exactly what its name suggests: a tractor safety structure to protect vehicle operators in the event of a rollover. They’re not exclusive to tractors by any means, but the eye-catching appearance of a ROPS on a cab-less tractor—an arched bar rising up from behind the seat, reaching above the driver’s head—is a common sight. A ROPS can also be built into a tractor cab, though be warned not every cab offers ROPS-caliber protection. A ROPS must be strong enough to bear the weight of the tractor (if it rolls over) without giving way.

You might assume that tractor rollover accidents are a thing of the past; surely those stem from the days of unstable three-wheeled row crop tractors? While it’s true three-wheeled tractors can be especially prone to rollovers, there are situations that can cause even the sturdiest of tractors to either flip backward or tip over on their side. Operating on slopes or near ditches can be a recipe for rollovers, as can turning too fast or braking with only one wheel. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tractor rollovers are the cause of around 130 fatalities per year in the United States.

ROPS can’t prevent tractor rollovers, but they can save lives. After 1985, ROPS became commonplace on new tractors in the United States, and the introduction has reduced rollover fatalities. When coupled with a seatbelt, studies suggest ROPS are close to 100% effective at preventing tractor rollover fatalities.

Should I install a ROPS on my old tractor?

If you’re operating a pre-1985 tractor, there’s a good chance it doesn’t have a ROPS. For your tractor safety, you’ll want to see about having one professionally installed.

We say professionally because ROPS are held to rigorous safety standards—that’s what makes them so effective. If you’re old tractor is a common model, like a Massey Ferguson 135, you may find ROPS options to be readily available.

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If a suitable ROPS can’t be found, you may want to consider retiring your old tractor and investing in a post-1985 model. You can’t predict for certain when a rollover might happen, and a ROPS-equipped tractor offers effective protection.

Do other farm vehicles need ROPS?

Tractors aren’t the only farm vehicles at risk for rollovers. ATVs and UTVs are two other examples. ATVs in particular are at risk due to their small size and high centers of gravity, though even the larger and safer UTVs aren’t immune. When purchasing an ATV or UTV, see if it comes with a ROPS, or if one can be installed after the fact.

Having ROPS on your farm vehicles is really a no-brainer. When coupled with a seatbelt and careful driving, a ROPS will provide tractor safety and peace of mind through all your farming activities.

This article about tractor safety was written for Hobby Farms online. To subscribe to Hobby Farms magazine, click here.

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