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Rollover Protective Structures
Riding a tractor is an activity that is deeply engrained in a farmer’s everyday life. Movements become mechanical, and muscle memory allows the equipment operator to handle the motions with ease. Safety precautions paired with experience in front of the wheel reduce operational risks and errors to a minimum. However, accidents can happen even to the most seasoned drivers. Having a piece of equipment functioning correctly, well maintained, and properly fitted with all security implements required by regulators is crucial to reducing the risk of severe injuries and fatalities.

One of the most prevalent accidents occurring within farms is rollovers. And to keep drivers safe, two vital pieces are a must have in every tractor: seatbelts and Rollover Protective Structures.

What is it?

Rollover Protective Structures, also known as ROPS, are generally described as steel structures that shield operators from injury. It works as a roll cage system, framing the driver seat area and creating a protective zone for the operator when the equipment experiences a rollover accident. When using a seatbelt, ROPS have a 99% effectiveness in preventing severe injuries or fatalities. 

ROPS are available as:

  • Two-post ROPS: the most common type, two-post ROPS are mounted on the back axle of the equipment. They can be fitted vertically or slightly tilted. Some foldable alternatives are available to work on certain types of low-clearance zones, such as orchards and vineyards. 
  • Four-post ROPS: aside from having frames mounted on the back of the tractor, there are also frames mounted in the front. Some models have posts mounted at the top of flat-top rear fenders, which have been specially reinforced to this end. 
  • Enclosed cabs: the cab structure shields the operator completely, acting as a ROPS. The design is usually installed by the manufacturer directly. 
Equipment can also be fitted with Falling Object Protective Structures (FOPS), made of fiberglass or steel, that can be attached to two-post or four-post ROPS. FOPS act as a canopy or roof and keep the operator safe from falling objects or debris while also shielding them from weather and sun.
Homemade ROPS are strongly discouraged, as they do not fulfill standard regulations for protection and can result in an even more serious situation. If your equipment does not have ROPS, retrofit kits are available to be installed by professionals. These kits generally include a seatbelt for extra safety. If your vehicle does have ROPS, modifications to the structure, such as welding or cutting, are not recommended, as they may damage its integrity and effectiveness. ROPS are certified by regulatory entities such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), and the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE), among others, who oversee and test security, resistance, performance, materials, and other product characteristics.
Risks of a rollover
Even though ROPS prevalence is increasing in the US, rollovers accidents remain the leading cause of fatalities and serious injuries within the agricultural sector. Estimates show that around 96 people die every year due to side and rear overturns, noting that 80% of these accidents happen to experienced farmers. Some of the most common injuries sustained during a rollover situation are various degrees of brain injuries due to impact, spinal and crushing injuries associated with vehicles falling on top of operators, electrocutions, burns, cuts, lacerations, bruising and broken bones.
Handling a tractor is not the same as maneuvering a regular vehicle. Its base of stability and center of gravity differ from a passenger car, depending on model, weight, and dimensions. They include features that have been specifically designed to prevent rollovers but driving defensively and responsibly, following load limitations and balancing requirements, can save time, money, pain, and, above all, human lives.
What is being done today?
As mentioned before, ROPS are becoming more common for agricultural machinery. However, as old models continue to be present on the fields, the risk of a rollover accident with fatal consequences remains an issue, adding to the high number of associated annual deaths. With this in mind, organizations such as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) are pushing initiatives such as CROPS (Cost-effective Rollover Protective Structures). CROPS aims to increase the use and availability of ROPS systems, especially for older equipment for which ROPS models are unavailable, allowing farmers to equip their tractors with built-on ROPS and seat belts at a lower cost.
Other retrofitting incentives, educational programs, and social marketing initiatives organized by groups and institutions are shedding light on the dangers of overturning accidents and helping farmers access and install ROPS into their equipment through rebates for purchasing, shipping, and installing ROPS kits.
VISCOSITY’s part

Security and protection are vital in all workplaces, and the agricultural industry is no exception. At VISCOSITY Oil, we care for our employees and collaborators by adhering to our HSE policies and internal safety practices. For our products, we have worked tirelessly for 130 years to provide solutions that keep equipment on the move with excellent protection by formulating products that exceed industry standards and fulfill heavy-duty requirements for optimal performance. These are VISCOSITY’s contributions to keeping vehicle operators and equipment safe, but the rest is up to you! Follow your manufacturer’s advice on when and how to tend to your equipment both inside and out, and make sure you adhere to industry recommendations so you can keep working safely in fluid motion.

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