Low Cost Roll-Over Protective Structures Intervention Project


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.


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 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 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 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 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 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.