Iowa ranks first in the country for tractor rollover deaths, and a rebate being offered through a University of Iowa program aims to make farmers safer.
Brandi Janssen is director of the UI-based I-CASH, the Iowa Center for Agricultural Safety and Health. A properly-maintained tractor can be a workhorse across several generations of farmers, and Janssen says the older machines are more deadly in rollovers as they lack ROPS, or rollover protection systems.
Janssen says, “Forty to 50% of tractors in operation do not have ROPS, so it’s essentially any tractor that was manufactured before 1985.” A ROPS is a metal bar or frame that attaches to the tractor. In a rollover, the ROPS — when used with a seatbelt — prevents the operator from being crushed under the machine. Sadly, many Iowa farmers don’t shell out the money to retrofit their tractors.
“We probably see anywhere from five to 15 deaths a year, which feels like a low number when you think about it, but cumulatively that adds up,” Janssen says. “And, of course we actually don’t have a whole lot of farmers in the state anymore because the number of farmers tends to decrease as well, so our rates are still very high compared to other states.”
Adding ROPS to a tractor may cost between $1,500 and $2,500, but Janssen says a rebate is being offered that erases a large portion of that cost.
“The rebate, which there’s limited funding for through I-CASH, so that funding comes from within the state of Iowa, and covers 70% of the cost of the ROPS or all but $500, whichever works out in the farmer’s favor,” Janssen says. “So essentially, you’re not going to pay more than $500 to put a ROPS on your tractor.”
There is a waiting list for the ROPS rebates in Iowa, but Janssen encourages every owner of large farm equipment to sign up, as it’s a life-safer.
“When used with a seatbelt, it’ll prevent a fatality 99% of the time,” Janssen says. “The ROPS will hold the tractor up off of the operator if you are strapped in. So, the roll bar has some protective factor even if you’re not wearing the seatbelt, but if you really want to keep yourself safe, it’s a roll bar plus the seatbelts are the two key factors.”
This is National Farm Safety week. For information about the rebate, visit ROPSr4u.org or call (877) 767-7748.