March 22, 2000 | By: Mark Eclov

Kentucky's rolling hills may provide a scenic springtime backdrop for spring fieldwork, but those steep inclines also provide for a potentially deadly scenario if farmers don't use roll-over protection devices on their tractors.

"The death rate in Kentucky agriculture is two to three times higher than the national average, primarily because of our high number of tractor and tractor overturn deaths," said Larry Piercy, Extension agricultural safety and health specialist in the UK College of Agriculture.

"Even sadder is the fact that most of those deaths could have been prevented if the victims had installed roll-over protection structures and seat belts on the tractors that killed them." said Piercy.

Roll bars or ROPS are designed to provide a zone of protection for the operator in the case of an overturn and, in most situations, will stop the tractor on its side. The seatbelt will keep the operator within the zone of safety provided by the roll bar.

"Unfortunately, less than a third of the tractors in our state are equipped with roll-over protection," said Piercy.

Prices for this life-saving equipment have been greatly reduced in recent years and many older tractors can be now be retro-fitted with ROPs at a cost ranging from $600-$1,000.

Some older tractors manufactured before the late 1960's may be more expensive and ROPS may not be available for some older tractors. County Extension agents may be able to help producers locate ROPs sources for older tractors.

If you have ROP's or a safety cab, get in the habit of using the seatbelt," said Piercy. "While ROPs provide basic protection but the seat belt insures that you will be held inside that zone of protection or from being thrown from the tractor."

One excuse that has probably been uttered by more than one rollover victim is that "nothing like that could ever happen to me." The statistics say otherwise.

"A survey of farmers over 55 years of age indicated that one in nine had experienced a roll-over during their lifetime," emphasized Piercy. "Of those who flipped their tractor, a third had the tractor roll completely over more than two times so the risk of overturning a tractor during a lifetime of farming is fairly high."


Larry Piercy 606-257- 3000