With spring planting season now in full swing on farms across the state, Kentucky Farm Bureau (KFB) urges everyone working on or around the farm to refresh themselves with safe practices for operating tractors.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), agriculture ranks as one of the most hazardous industries in the country. In fact, between 1992 and 2007, the CDC reports that 8,088 farm workers in the U.S. died from work-related injuries. The leading cause of death: tractor rollovers, accounting for an average of 96 deaths annually. Additionally, the Farm Safety Association (FSA) declares that about half of all fatal tractor accidents are caused by rollovers.

There is no perfect solution for preventing tractor rollovers, but there are ways to minimize the life-threatening situations that can occur if a tractor is overturned. Operators should always be physically and mentally capable of driving a tractor, seatbelts worn at all times and no additional passengers allowed (despite the convenience or “fun” of hitching a ride on a tractor). Proper training from an experienced operator is also essential, especially with younger users, to learn how a tractor is driven correctly and what factors can cause it to overturn.

Yet even when proper precautions are taken to prevent a rollover, accidents do still happen. According to the FSA, rollovers generally occur due to driving too fast for the conditions that are present, striking a surface hazard such as a rock, stump or hole, running into a ditch, hitching high for extra traction, or driving on steep slopes. In such circumstances, sometimes the only thing that can save a life is a seatbelt and Rollover Protective Structure (ROPS).

ROPS are highly engineered steel frames placed around and above the driver’s seat of a tractor or built into a cab structure in similar fashion. Used in conjunction with a seatbelt, ROPS are designed to keep the operator within a frame of safety and protect the driver by limiting a rollover to 90 degrees.