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As farming remains a deadly career, experts urge the use of ROPS and a seatbelt

The risks of farming have decreased significantly over the past 50 years, dropping from 60 to 18 deaths per 100,000. Even so, farming lags behind similarly dangerous jobs, where recent technology has allowed their mortality rates to reach even lower. In 2015, 11 Illinois residents died while working the land, and as temperatures rise, more people are expected to be farming.

However, such unnecessary deaths can be prevented with basic tractor safety, such as the installation of a rollover protection system (ROPS). The system gained popularity between the 70’s and 80’s, and experts say the system, when paired with a seat belt, has a nearly 100% rate of effectiveness. On the other end of the spectrum, the likelihood of living through an accident without the protection of ROPS plummets to 20%.

The largest number of rollover accidents occur for farmers over the age of 55, who are often using outdated equipment. Farm safety instructors try to combat this trend by informing children about new techniques at their schools. Amy Rademaker, a farm safety specialist working for the Carle Center for Rural Health and Farm Safety said, “We often think that kids and younger folks are a way to their parents.”

In teaching a fourth-grade class of more than 200 students, Rademaker found a large discrepancy in children who wear seat belts in a car and those who wear seat belts in a tractor. It’s a common belief that a tractor accident would be less dangerous, due to their slow speeds, but sometimes a rollover can happen before anyone is able to react. Rademaker would like to see wearing a seat belt in a tractor become as critical as wearing one in a car.

David Newcomb, a farm worker himself and the manager of the Illinois Fire Institute’s Ag Rescue Program, teaches firefighters how to respond to farming injuries. He says there are several reasons a farmer may get into a deadly accident, even with ROPS installed. One of those reasons is that the system can be folded to fit into small spaces and just never get unfolded. He urges farmers to take care of themselves this season.