Group aims to create national program modeled after successful five-state effort
Farmers and farm advocates joined representatives from agricultural companies and manufacturers as well as government officials and health and safety experts in a two-day meeting May 21-22 to form the National Tractor Safety Coalition (NTSC). The purpose of the new coalition is to reduce tractor-related injuries and deaths on U.S. farms. Tractor overturns account for about one-third of farm deaths each year.
The occupational fatality rate for farmers is 700% higher than other U.S. industries, including mining. “We could lower the rate of these fatalities by one-third by addressing one issue, tractor overturns,” explains John May, MD, director of the Northeast Center for Agricultural Health (NEC). “The good news is that we have a successful program in place already; we just need to expand it.”
The NEC formed the first Rollover Protection System (ROPS) Rebate Program in New York in 2006 and was instrumental in starting ROPS programs in Pennsylvania, Vermont, New Hampshire and Wisconsin more recently.
Installing tractor rollbars and seatbelts — a rollover protection system — is nearly 100% effective in preventing death and serious injury in the case of a rollover. Tractors built after 1986 have ROPS included as part of the standard equipment but many tractors on farms today, especially smaller farms, are older and were sold without ROPS.
The cost of retrofitting older tractors is a key barrier for many small farmers. The ROPS Rebate Program takes that issue out of the equation. NEC and its in-state partners pay for most or all the ROPS equipment and help match the appropriate ROPS to each tractor. As stated by farmer Mike Olin, who attended the meeting, “Without the New York ROPS Program, I would not have been able to install a ROPS on my tractor.”
During the meeting, participants established immediate and long-term goals to move this issue forward, including:
- Increasing funding for ROPS programs;
- Among state and federal legislators, building awareness of ROPS and its impact on farm deaths and requesting funding for a national ROPS program;
- Expanding data collection about accidents as well as ROPS success stories; and
- Improving tractor safety training opportunities.
At the end of the two-day meeting, four task force groups were created to tackle these and other short- and long-term goals. The meeting was cosponsored by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and CHS foundation. NIOSH is the U.S. federal agency that conducts research and makes recommendations to prevent worker injury and illness. CHS Inc. is an energy, grain and foods company.
Monsanto Company’s Mark Schuerman attended the meeting. “Monsanto is an agricultural company that supports farmers around the world,” he says. “The safety of farmers and farm families is very important to Monsanto. Tractor overturns are the leading cause of death on farms; ROPS are proven to reduce fatalities and we are committed to promoting farm safety including the use of ROPS.”
Monsanto has produced a tractor safety video as part of its Growing Safely video series that will be available in June. In addition, it will encourage other private companies to join in this national effort to promote the use of ROPS. Monsanto’s Growing Safely videos can be viewed at www.youtube.com/user/OffTheJobSafety
Individuals interested in purchasing ROPS, creating a ROPS Rebate Program or learning more about the National Tractor Safety Coalition may call Pam Tinc of NEC at 607-547-6023.