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Addressing and Minimizing Tractor-Related Agricultural Injuries

What will it take to reduce the rate of fatal agricultural injuries?  An industry known for its abnormally high rate of fatal injuries, the agriculture industry sees 20.2 fatal injuries for every 100,000 workers, nearly 6 times that of the national average.  What are the major causes? How can companies reduce the amount of fatal injuries and draw attention to the issue in order to make change?

Tractor Overturns: A Growing (And Preventable Concern)

The most frequent cause of farm fatalities, overturned tractors, is something that can be easily addressed.  By mandating the presence of a roll-bar and seatbelt (referred to as a rollover protective structure system or ROPS), fatal injury rates can be greatly reduced.
Unfortunately, roughly 40% of U.S. tractors lack these protective devices. Who seems to be missing the point?  The following three groups are those most frequently lacking ROPS protection:

  • Older farmers
  • Part-time farmers
  • Low-income farms

The general cause behind these groups failing to implement ROPS is due to concerns based on cost, implementation time, and belief that adding this protection is unnecessary.  How are local and regional programs looking to offset cost and drive awareness?

Regional Use of ROPS, AutoROPS, and CROPS

Over the past decade, local and regional programs have combined cost-sharing rebates and promotion to encourage ROPS installations. These programs have been highly rated by participants (99% would recommend the program to other farmers) and have demonstrated that the financial benefits in lives saved far outweigh program investments yet, a national program of this type has yet to be implemented.

How to Implement National ROPS Rebates and Regulations

Scaling up local and regional rebate programs to the national level requires the mobilization of resources and expertise from many agricultural stakeholder groups, in particular to meet the two greatest challenges anticipated:

  • Securing an adequate supply of the specific ROPS needed to retrofit older tractors across the US
  • Securing a national funding source to cover the considerable cost of rebates.

Once solutions to these two major challenges are found, a diverse national coalition will be able to implement what is already known about marketing and promotion of ROPS to high-risk farmers across the country.
To this end, the National Tractor Safety Coalition Steering Committee, a core group of 12 multi-sector organizations, hosted a retreat in to further a National ROPS Initiative.
Representatives, including manufacturers and dealers, financial and insurance groups, private corporations, and the media in addition to the agricultural and health and safety research, practice, and advocacy organizations more commonly associated with this type of effort.
This landmark event utilized a proven “Systems Thinking” methodology called Whole-System-in-the-Room (WSR). This method harnesses the potential and collective power of the various institutions and individuals in a system to self-organize toward a common goal.
The National Tractor Safety Coalition retreat marked the first time Whole-System-in-the-Room methods have been used to address an agricultural safety issue in the United States.

6 Goals to Implement National ROPS Legislation

By the end of the retreat, participants had identified common goals and outlined the commitments they were willing to make in pursuit of their shared goals.

Shared goals included:
1)      Developing a National ROPS Initiative structure and method of implementation

2)      Developing educational materials and promoting awareness

3)      Raising funds to support these efforts

4)      Increasing opportunities for collaboration

5)      Coordinating data collection and data reporting to evaluate and facilitate the implementation process

6)      Ensuring a reliable and cost-effective supply of ROPS.

More Information on Minimizing Fatal Workplace Injuries

Learn more about the importance of protecting workers by reading the following resources:

  • Roll Over Protection Structure Overview
  • University of Kentucky Guide to ROPS
  • Necessities of a Workplace First-Aid Kit
  • The 10 Most Dangerous Jobs in America
  • Most Cited OSHA Violations in 2013

Nova Medical Centers cares about helping your organization protect its workers.  From pre-employment screenings to on-the-job testing to occupational health assessments, we offer many options to help minimize workplace risk and improve recovery time.  Please contact us for more information.

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