ROPS Pilot Study

The objectives of the Low Cost Roll-Over Protective Structures Intervention Project are to develop and test roll-over protective structures for tractors with the overall goal of developing plans and procedures that will allow farmers with basic welding skills to build and install their own low-cost ROPS on the farm. Included in this project are the evaluation of policy and legal implications of the approach, and development of knowledge transfer approaches and best practices for sharing plans and evaluating outcomes.

This project involves a national team of researchers, analysts and knowledge translation experts from Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI; Humboldt, SK), the Canadian Centre for Health and Safety in Agriculture (CCHSA; Saskatoon SK), the College of Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon, SK), the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA; Winnipeg, MB), SafetyNet Centre for Occupational Health and Safety Research (St. John’s, Newfoundland), and the Injury Prevention Centre (IPC - formerly the Alberta Centre for Injury Control and Research; Edmonton, AB).

As with the other AgriSafety Program projects, knowledge translation and dissemination of findings will be conducted in conjunction with the Canadian Centre for Health and Safety in Agriculture as part of their Knowledge Translation component of the AgriSafety Program. Please visit the "Project Updates" and "Project Output" tabs for information about current activities and Knowledge Translation materials for this project.

Scientific Rationale

In Canada, the leading cause of farm work-related deaths is tractor roll events accounting for 25% of all farm work-related deaths (CAIR, 2010). In the period from 1990 to 2008, 330 Canadian farmers died in tractor rollover events. In 2004, agriculture-related injuries cost $465M (SmartRisk, 2010). This includes costs arising from the use of health care and costs related to reduced productivity from hospitalization, disability, and premature death. A recent study of farm injuries conducted in Saskatchewan observed that 43% of tractors in use on farms did not have rollover protective structures (ROPS). There is no reason to believe that this situation does not exist in all provinces. Evidence from Sweden, Norway, Finland, and West Germany demonstrated that mandatory ROPS retrofitting and mandatory ROPS on all new tractors virtually eliminated fatal tractor rollover deaths (Springfeldt, 1996). In spite of the overwhelming evidence of the efficacy of ROPS in the prevention of death or serious injury in a tractor rollover event, North American farmers continue to cite the cost of retrofitting tractors with ROPS as one of the main deterrents to installing this safety feature on their tractors (Sorenson et al, 2006).


Aims of the project

This project aims to fill an existing commercial gap that has unfortunately resulted in approximately one-half of all tractors in Canada still being operated without rollover protective structures (ROPS). The cost of commercial ROPS ($750 to $2,000) discourages farmers from buying ROPS for older tractors (as these older tractors have a value of only about $2,000). Previous studies by the highly respected USA organizations, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health (NYCAMH), as well as the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI) and other researchers indicated that commercial ROPS exceed farmer’s purchase price point and that the costs associated with a commercial process such as transportation, markup, and fabricator’s labour result in a prohibitive ROPS cost for older tractors. Lower-cost ROPS that are built directly in the farm shop using engineered drawings would significantly decrease the costs and hence increase the uptake and usage of ROPS by farmers.

For further information about this project, please contact Program Manager Nadia Smith at 306-966-1648 or by email at nadia.smith@usask.ca.

References

Canadian Agriculture Injury Reporting (CAIR), Agricultural Fatalities in Canada, 1990-2008. CAIR: University of Alberta. (2010). Retrieved from http://www.cair-sbac.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/National-Report-1990-2008-FULL-REPORT-FINAL.pdf.

SMARTRISK. (2010). The economic burden of injury within the agricultural population in Canada. SMARTRISK: Toronto, ON (unpublished).

Springfeldt, B. (1996). Rollover of tractors-international experiences. Safety Science 24(2):95-110.

Sorenson, J.A, May, J.J, Jenkins, P.H, Jones, A, and Earle-Richardson, G. (2006). Risk perceptions, barriers, and motivators to tractor ROPS retrofitting in New York state farmers. Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health 12(3): 315-26.

Year 1 (2014-15) Update

In Year 1, the Low-cost roll-over protective structures project completed the following:

1.  Background research into ROPS for agricultural tractors was conducted. Applicable ROPS standards and testing procedures were investigated. Previous projects involving designing and/or installing ROPS for older tractors were reviewed to learn about popular tractor models, typical designs and costs for commercial and custom built ROPS, farmer’s willingness to install ROPS, etc.

2.  Reviewed NIOSH design drawings to determine manufacturing requirements.

3.  Initiated the PAMI design. Objectives and constraints were defined. Previous ROPS designs and data sets from ROPS tests were analyzed to predict loads and deflections that the new design will need to withstand. Work was conducted and is ongoing to determine the best method of lowering stress at weld locations to accommodate lower-than-tradesman-quality welding.

4.  Conducted a review of regulatory requirements across Canada for ROPS on agricultural tractors. In general, ROPS are required on agricultural tractors in every province and must conform to applicable CSA standards.

5.  Obtained a legal opinion on the liability issues related to a facilitated farmer-built ROPS program and investigated possible methods of managing this liability.

Next Steps:

Once the new design is complete, a pilot program to test the farmer-built ROPS process will be carried out. Ten farmers will be provided with drawings of the NIOSH design and ten other farmers will be provided with drawings of the PAMI design. Each farmer will build two identical ROPS according to the drawings. One will be tested at PAMI according to the applicable standards to determine its structural strength ‘as-built’. If the first ROPS passes the test, the second will be installed by the farmer on their tractor. The ROPS designs may be modified part way through the pilot program if necessary.

If the pilot program proves successful, a process to roll out a national program to the farm public will be developed.

Year 2 (2015-16) Update

The objective of this project is to create and test a process to lower the cost of installing ROPS on older tractors by enabling farmers to build and install their own ROPS. By providing engineered design drawings to farmers for them to fabricate ROPS in their own shops, the cost of a ROPS could be reduced to about $250.

Initial results from the farmer-built ROPS pilot program are promising. The design of the ROPS was developed by PAMI. The goal of the design was to create a ROPS that is quick and easy to fabricate at a low cost while ensuring it is structurally sound even if it is built with low-quality welding. For the pilot program, drawings are provided to farmer cooperators who are asked to build a ROPS on their farms. The ROPS are then inspected and tested at PAMI to determine if they are built to the specifications and measure their structural strength.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has published ROPS designs that cover 60% of older tractors in the USA and are available for public access. To evaluate these NIOSH designs and determine the fabrication requirement, they were reviewed by PAMI. A NIOSH-designed ROPS was built and tested at PAMI. Although very little welding is required, the design has many components and requires some processes that are time consuming. One of the processes involves bending heavy steel plate that requires tools that many farmers likely will not have access to. It was determined that building this design requires approximately twice as much labour as building a fully welded ROPS. For these reasons there are concerns about the uptake of this design. Therefore, it was decided that the focus of the project going forward will be on a new welded PAMI-designed ROPS that strives to minimize complexity and required fabrication labour.

A new PAMI design was developed for a ROPS intended to fit on one model series of Massey Ferguson tractors. This design requires fewer components and is simpler to build than the NIOSH design but does require significant welding. Steps were taken in the design to allow for a structurally sound ROPS even if welding skills may not result in tradesman quality. Two prototype ROPS were built and tested at PAMI during the development of the design. Fabrication drawings of the design were created.

To test the PAMI design and the farmer-built ROPS process, a pilot program is being conducted. Farmers are provided with drawings of the PAMI design and asked to build a ROPS on their farm following the drawings. Once complete, the farmer-built ROPS are inspected and tested at PAMI to verify that they conform to the design and to determine the structural strength ‘as-built’.

To date, four farmers have built ROPS for the program. The fabrication time spent by each farmer to build one ROPS ranged from four to eight hours, which each farmer felt was reasonable. The average material cost for the steel required for one ROPS was only $144. After being inspected, three of the four ROPS were found to have been built as specified. The proper material was used by each of these three farmers and the finished ROPS had the required dimensions. The fourth ROPS did not meet the dimensional requirements and did not fit on a tractor. The three correct ROPS were tested for structural strength using a standardized procedure. All three ROPS proved to be structurally sound. Each farmer-built ROPS was comparable in strength to a PAMI-built prototype of the same design. The results from a limited sample size show promise that farmers are able to build effective ROPS on their farms at a low cost and indicate that farmer’s welding is adequate.

The pilot program is ongoing with plans to have more farmers build ROPS for testing. Also, some farmer-built ROPS will be installed on tractors. The design may be modified partway through the pilot program if it is determined that improvements can be made.

If the pilot program proves successful, a process to roll out a national program to the farm public will be developed.

Year 3 (2016-17) Update

This year, three farmers built ROPS. After inspection, all three were determined to be dimensionally built within acceptable tolerances. The ROPS were then tested for structural integrity. All three successfully met the test criteria and were comparable in strength to the PAMI-built prototype. The results from this year build on the successful results from last year when three of four farmer-built ROPS met the requirements. From the limited sample size completed, farmer’s welding is proving to be adequate. The results show promise that farmers are able to build effective ROPS on their farms at a low cost.

Initial results from the farmer-built ROPS pilot program are promising. The purpose of this program is to test farmers’ abilities to build ROPS for older tractors on their farms by following supplied drawings. The design of the ROPS was developed by PAMI. The goal of the design was to create a ROPS that is quick and easy to fabricate at a low cost while ensuring it is structurally sound even if it is built with low-quality welding. For the pilot program, drawings are provided to farmer cooperators who are asked to build a ROPS on their farms. The ROPS are then inspected and tested at PAMI to determine if they are built to the specifications and to measure their structural strength.

To date, farmers have built seven ROPS for the program. The fabrication time spent by each farmer to build one ROPS ranged from four to eight hours, which each farmer felt was reasonable. The average material cost for the steel required for one ROPS was only $157. After being inspected, six of the seven ROPS were found to have been built as specified with the proper material and to the proper dimensions. The other ROPS had a dimensional error that would have been apparent to the farmer on attempting installation. This one was not tested, but the weld quality and structural strength appeared adequate. The other six ROPS were tested and proved to be structurally sound. Each farmer-built ROPS was comparable in strength to a PAMI-built prototype of the same design. 

Modifications to the PAMI design were made this year to incorporate more Massey Ferguson tractor models. A prototype of this modified design was built and tested at PAMI. As the farmer-built pilot program continues, drawings of this design will be supplied to farmers. Farmers will be asked to build one ROPS for testing. If their ROPS meets the specifications, they will be able to build another ROPS to install on their tractor if they have a qualifying tractor model.

Fewer farmer-built ROPS were completed in Year 3 than intended. The plan for Year 4 includes having as many farmer-built ROPS fabricated and tested as possible. However, the total number completed through the project could be less than initial estimates. 

Finding farmers who own tractor models that fit the current ROPS design has proven challenging. This has prevented the installation of any ROPS on farm tractors. Therefore, the ROPS design was modified to incorporate more tractor models although it is still limited to a series of Massey Fergusson tractors. Addition methods of finding farmer participants with appropriate tractor models will be conducted so that installations can occur in the coming year.

According to provincial regulations across Canada, ROPS are required to be designed and built to meet applicable standards and have identification stating this. Therefore, for a farmer-built ROPS to meet regulations, a process is needed to certify that the ROPS meets the requirements. A potential process for certifying that farmer-built ROPS meet the requirements is being designed. It would involve an inspector verifying that the farmer-built ROPS was built and installed according to the supplied engineered drawings. If the ROPS meets the specifications, the farmer would be provided with a label to affix to the ROPS as identification and proof of certification. 

The pilot program is ongoing, but the results to date are promising. So far, a visual inspection of the ROPS has proven sufficient to verify that it will meet the structural requirements. This means an inspection process to certify farmer-built ROPS could be feasible. This will allow low-cost, farmer-built ROPS to meet regulations and greatly increase operator safety on older farm tractors. 

If the pilot program proves successful, a process to roll out a national program to the farm public will be developed.

Year 4 (2017-2018) Update

In the final year of the project, five farmers built ROPS to bring the project total up to twelve farmer-built ROPS. Average material costs were approximately $250. In addition, the ROPS build from the designs developed in this project were installed by five different farmers on their farm tractors.  The farmers required little to no direct instruction beyond the written instructions that were provided.

Of the twelve ROPS built by farmers, nine passed the ROPS test. One did not pass because it was assembled incorrectly and the other two failed because the farmers used incorrect material thickness. The latter issue can be remedied in the future by improving the farmer instructions to stress the importance of material thickness. Of important note, is that the proposed inspection practice would have successfully identified the ROPS that did not pass the testing. Additionally, no ROPS failed due to substandard welding, a primary concern of the industry prior to this pilot project.

According to provincial regulations across Canada, ROPS are required to be designed and built to meet applicable standards and have identification stating this. Therefore, for a farmer-built ROPS to meet regulations, a process was needed to certify that the ROPS met the requirements. A potential process was designed for certifying that farmer-built ROPS will meet the requirements. It would involve an engineering inspector reviewing completed checklists and, pictures to remotely verifying that the farmer-built ROPS was built and installed according to the supplied engineered drawings and fabrication instructions. To determine the required weld quality PAMI built and tested three ROPS with various types of substandard welds and then tested those ROPS. They all passed. This helped to establish a minimum visual weld quality. Thus the verification practice would require the farmer to submit completed checklists and pictures. If the ROPS meets the specifications, PAMI would provide the farmer with a label to affix to the ROPS as identification and proof of certification. 

Over the course of the AgriSafety Program, twenty-five ROPS were built; twelve by famers, thirteen by PAMI, and five were installed on farm tractors. The results of this pilot project are very promising (1) ROPS can be designed such that high stresses will not be at the welds; (2) farmers are capable of easily building quality low-cost ROPS on their farm from engineered drawings and fabrication instructions; and (3) a verification process was pilot tested where ROPS can be practically certified by qualified engineers to meet provincial regulatory requirements. Based on the successes of the current project, there is considerable opportunity to continue research in this area to finalize the parameters and initiate a national ROPS program.

Project Summary

  1. Background research into ROPS for agricultural tractors was conducted. Applicable ROPS standards and testing procedures were investigated. Previous projects involving designing and/or installing ROPS for older tractors were reviewed to learn about popular tractor models, typical designs and costs for commercial- and custom-built ROPS, farmer’s willingness to install ROPS, etc.
  1. Conducted a review of regulatory requirements across Canada for ROPS on agricultural tractors. In general, ROPS are required on agricultural tractors in every province. ROPS must conform to applicable CSA standards and have identification (ROPS labels) visible with details about the design and manufacturer. 
  1. Obtained a legal opinion on the liability issues related to a facilitated farmer-built ROPS program and investigated possible methods of managing this liability.
  1. Developed an initial PAMI ROPS design. The ROPS was designed to fit one series of models of Massey Ferguson tractors. This model was chosen as a starting point due to its popularity. The design has the potential of being modified to fit other models and brands in the future.
  1. A prototype of the PAMI design was built and tested at PAMI using the standardized CSA/ISO ROPS test. After testing the prototype, it was discovered that revisions to the design were required. These revisions were carried out and another prototype was built and tested. This prototype proved successful. Drawings for this design and fabrication instructions were developed.  Later modifications were made to the previous PAMI design to allow it to be suitable for a wider range of Massey Ferguson tractor models. A prototype of the modified design was built and tested at PAMI and proved successful.
  1. Twelve farmer cooperators were recruited, and each was provided with drawings of the PAMI design and fabrication instructions to build. Each farmer built a ROPS on their farm and shipped it to PAMI. The ROPS were inspected at PAMI for conformity to the fabrication drawings.
  1. The farmers were questioned about their experience following the supplied drawings and building the ROPS. In general, the farmers seemed satisfied with the design and the fabrication process. They were able to typically complete a build within a day and average material cost was $250. Some of the steel material required to build the ROPS proved difficult to source for two farmers. Input on possible improvements was provided.
  1. A prototype of a remote engineering inspection process was developed to meet compliance requirements with the regulators. It consisted of farmer participants agreeing to follow a specific manufacturing process and submitting completed checklists and pictures to a PAMI engineer. To determine the appearance and performance of threshold welding, PAMI deliberately built and tested three relatively poorly welded ROPS that still passed the CSA ROPS test. This determined thresholds to guide PAMI’s visual inspection of welds from photos. The completed checklist would ensure that proper materials were sourced. PAMI would only issue them a ‘ROPS label’ (a requirement for them to meet regulatory requirements) if all criteria were met.
  1. Over the entire program, twenty-five ROPS were built; twelve by famers and thirteen by PAMI; five of those were installed on tractors on farms. The results of this pilot project are very promising from an engineering perspective: (1) ROPS can be designed such that high stresses will not be at the welds; (2) farmers are capable of easily building quality low-cost ROPS on their farm from engineered drawings and manufacturing instructions; and (3) a verification process was drafted where ROPS can be practically certified by qualified engineers to meet provincial regulatory requirements. Based on the successes of the current project, there is considerable opportunity to continue research in this area to finalize the parameters and initiate a national ROPS program. Based on the successes of the current project, there is considerable opportunity to continue research in this area to finalize the parameters and initiate a national ROPS program.

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