October 9, 2002 | By: Haven Miller

According to the National Safety Council, 61 percent of farming-related deaths in Kentucky involve tractors, and nearly 70 percent of these fatalities are the result of tractor overturns.      

Nearly all of these deaths are preventable.

“People don’t think it can happen to them, but it can,” said Larry Piercy, Extension farm safety specialist in the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. “The first thing a farmer can do is to alter his or her thinking and realize that it’s not always going to happen to someone else.  In fact, one out of every nine Kentucky farmers age 55 and older have overturned a tractor in their lifetime, and a third of these survivors have had two or more overturns.”

Piercy said less than half of Kentucky’s tractors are equipped with Rollover Protective Structures (ROPS).  Serious consequences from a tractor overturn, which can happen in the blink of an eye, can be prevented by simply equipping the tractor with ROPS.

“If a farmer uses rollover protection along with a seat belt it will not only prevent tragedy but will also reduce injuries, meaning fewer visits to the hospital emergency room and less medical costs,” said Piercy, who noted that each year more than 5,000 Kentucky farm workers are injured and require medical treatment.

Seat belt use also can prevent another significant source of tractor deaths and injuries that result from the operator being thrown from the tractor and run over.  These accidents account for nearly a quarter of the tractor deaths in the state, and could be prevented.  However, Piercy cautions that seat belts should only be used on tractors equipped with ROPS because their use on tractors without ROPS could actually increase the risk of overturn deaths.

Prices for Rollover Protective Structures have declined in recent years and can be installed on many older tractors for between $600 and $1,200.

In addition to rollover protection, tractors also should be equipped with bypass starter covers to prevent jump starting, master shields for power take-offs, Slow Moving Vehicle emblems, and emergency lighting.

“Tractor safety is not something to put off until next month or next year,” Piercy said.  “If farmers value their own safety and the well being of their loved ones, they will take action today to make sure their tractors are properly equipped.”

Tractor owners are encouraged to check with local equipment dealers for availability of ROPS and other tractor safety equipment.    


Larry Piercy, 859-257-3000