Tractor rollover incidents account for approximately half of all tractor-related fatalities across the country. A rollover protective structure (ROPS) fits on an agricultural tractor and protects the operator in the event of a rollover.
A tractor's ROPS and seat belt work in conjunction to secure the operator in a protective zone, reducing the operator's risk of being crushed under the tractor should it overturn. In most situations, the ROPS limits the overturn to little more than 90 degrees.
Although tractors built after 1985 are equipped with ROPSs and seat belts, many farmers and ranchers use older tractors that are not equipped with these safety devices. According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines, farm and ranch owners are required to have a ROPS and seat belt installed on all tractors operated by employees.
ROPS: Type and Structure
There are three types of ROPSs, all of which protect the operator in the event of a rollover:
- two-post ROPSs
- four-post ROPSs
- ROPSs with enclosed cabs
(Two-post ROPS. Source: Pennsylvania State University. Agricultural Safety and Health)
The two-post ROPS (pictured above) is the most common type of ROPS. The upright posts are typically vertical or slightly tilted and are mounted to the rear axle. Two-post ROPSs are either rigid or foldable.
- A foldable ROPS has a specially designed hinge that allows the ROPS to fold to fit in low-clearance areas.
- You must raise and lock the foldable ROPS after completing activities in low-clearance areas.
- A foldable ROPS that is not in its upright position will not provide protection during a rollover.
(Four-post ROPS. Source: Pennsylvania State University. Agricultural Safety and Health)
A four-post ROPS is mounted on both axles and on the frame in front of the operator. Occasionally, a four-post ROPS is mounted to the tops of specially reinforced flattop rear fenders.
ROPS with an Enclosed Cab
(ROPS with an Enclosed Cab. Source: Case International)
Typically, a tractor is outfitted with a ROPS with an enclosed cab by the manufacturer—the tractor's cab structure is designed to act as a ROPS. As sales of tractors with cabs have increased, ROPSs with enclosed cabs have become more common.
Falling Object Protective Structures
A falling object protective structure (FOPS) is a canopy specially designed to protect the operator from falling objects. FOPSs are especially recommended for use on front-end loaders and when working in wooded areas or other situations that may involve falling objects.
Most FOPSs are used on tractors with four-post ROPSs or ROPSs with enclosed cabs.
Retrofitting Older Tractors
Most tractors built before 1985 can and should be retrofitted with ROPSs and seat belts. Check with your local dealership or manufacturer to determine the availability of ROPS retrofit kits. You may also click here to access the University of Kentucky ROPS Guide to determine whether a ROPS is available for your tractor. You should have technicians at a dealership install any aftermarket ROPSs.
ROPS Safety Standards
Do not use a homemade ROPS on your agricultural tractor; it will not provide you with the necessary protection in the event of a rollover and may pose liability issues.
Manufacturers have designed and tested ROPSs to meet specific standards developed by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), the American Society of Agricultural Engineers (ASAE)—now called the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE)—and other organizations. These standards indicate that a ROPS has passed specially designed crush, static, and dynamic tests that confirm its effectiveness.
ROPSs must meet the following standards:
- SAE J2194
- American National Standards Institute (ANSI)/ASAE S478.1
- (Roll-Over Protective Structures (ROPS) for Compact Utility Tractors)
- Canadian Standards Association (CSA) B352.0
- CSA 352.1
- Two- and four-post ROPSs should have labels applied directly to the posts.
- The label on a ROPS with enclosed cab should be located on the edge of the cab door.
A factory-installed ROPS should never be structurally modified (that is, cut, welded, and so on). Such modifications can impact the integrity of the ROPS and impair its effectiveness in a rollover.
Periodically check the ROPS and seat belt on each tractor for signs of wear such as rust and cracks. Contact the dealership regarding the best way to properly correct any issues.
Click here to learn about aftermarket ROPS rebate programs available in certain areas of the United States.
American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE), 2012. ANSI/ASAE S478.1. Roll-Over Protective Structures (ROPS) for Compact Utility Tractors. St. Joseph, MI. Retrieved from http://www.elibrary.asabe.org.
Murphy, D. and Buckmaster, D. (2003) Rollover protection for farm tractor operators. Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, Agricultural and Biological Engineering. Retrieved from http://www.agsafety.psu.edu/factsheets/E42.pdf.
Schwab, C., Hanna, M., and Miller, L. (2002) Use tractors with ROPS to save lives. Iowa State University Extension. Retrieved from http://www.extension.iastate.edu/Publications/PM1265D.pdf.
The Kentucky ROPS Guide. (2010) Southeast Center for Agricultural Health and Injury Prevention, University of Kentucky. Retrieved from http://warehouse.ca.uky.edu/rops/info_important.asp.
Training module: Rollover protective structures (ROPS). (2002) The Ohio State University Extension Agricultural Tailgate Safety Training. Retrieved from http://ohioline.osu.edu/atts/PDF-English/ROPS.pdf.