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In Canada, the leading cause of farm work-related deaths is tractor roll events, which account for 17% of all farm work-related deaths. In the period from 2003-2012, 143 Canadian farmers died in tractor rollover events. In 2004, agriculture-related injuries cost $465M. 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 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. In spite of overwhelming evidence to 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). An effort to devise easily available and affordable ROPS retrofits are clearly warranted.
This project will 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). Farm fatalities from tractor rollovers are one of the major causes of death on the farm. 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 Agriculture Medicine and Health (NYCAMH), as well as the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI) and other researchers indicated that many 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 would significantly decrease the costs and increase the uptake and usage of ROPS by farmers. An intervention model where engineered ROPS fabrication design drawings were provided to farms for local fabrication is a very promising option as it could reduce the ROPS to an acceptable cost of about $250.
PAMI completed a four-year research program under the Canadian AgriSafety Applied Science Program to determine if it is feasible to design ROPS that could be properly built by farmers. A successful design was developed that fits Massey Ferguson models T035, 35, 130, 135, 150, 230, and 235. While the results of that project are very promising and the opportunity is great, several questions still need to be addressed for such a program to be successful. While the project is not complete, several key questions seem to be resolved:
(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.
(3) There appears to a process where ROPS can be certified by qualified engineers to meet provincial regulatory requirements.
Based on the successes of the past project, there is considerable opportunity to continue research in this area to define the parameters for a national ROPS program.
Working with the Canadian Centre for Rural and Agricultural Health (CCRAH) a ROPS website will be developed. The website will house a library of ROPS blueprints and include locations where prefabricated ROPS can be purchased. Farmers interested in building their own on-farm built ROPS will be able to search the website by tractor make and model for available blueprints. The website will be used to increase awareness of the ROPS program and for other organizations to link to.
Aims of Project
Overall Aim: The primary objective of this project is to conduct an extensive pilot rollout project on low-cost, farmer-built ROPS that would define the parameters required for a National ROPS Program. It will build off the results from the previous low-cost ROPS project, which had the following three breakthroughs: ROPS can be designed such that high stresses will not be at the welds, farmers are capable of easily building quality ROPS on their farm for approximately $200, and these ROPS can be certified by qualified engineers to meet provincial regulatory requirements.
Specific Objectives: This project will develop 3 more ROPS designs, develop a website that allows farmers to access ROPS fabrication drawings, promote the website, enact a social awareness and fundraising campaign, and ensure that over 100 ROPS were built, certified, and installed on older Canadian farm tractors. This four-year project will initiate the momentum to establish a long-term national program.
2019 - 2020 Year 1 Update
Under the Canadian AgriSafety Applied Research Program of 2014 - 2018, Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI) initiated a pilot project to determine the feasibility of ROPS designs that could be correctly and effectively fabricated by farmers. Based on the success of the pilot project, Activity 6 aims to continue the ROPS project and by developing ROPS engineered drawings for a greater variety of tractors. A National ROPS Program through a website and social awareness campaign. The goal of the project is to provide farmers across Canada with access to ROPS blueprints for safe and cost-effective retrofitting older model tractors with ROPS to prevent injuries and deaths.
In Year 1, Activity 6 focused on determining which tractor models were the highest priority for the development of ROPS blueprints. PAMI initiated a survey to collect data on the most common tractor models currently in use on Canadian farms as well as investigating past research including the USA tractor retrofitting program. The results show that the most common makes of tractors in use without ROPS were John Deere, Ford, and Massey Ferguson in the 35 - 65 horsepower range. This data will determine the priority tractor models for ROPS designs in future years of the project.
A ROPS website is being developed and will provide farmers with access to engineered drawings for fabricating their own on-farm ROPS along with instructions on the certification process and additional information about ROPS in Canada.
2020 - 2021 Year 2 Update
In Year 2 of the Roll Out of Low-Cost Farmer Built ROPS into National Program project, a new engineering organization joined the team and determined a way to develop a small family of about three ROPS designs that would cover most of the older tractors requiring ROPS in Canada. This process involved using a parametric design where one design could be used to accommodate a range of dimensions and tractor weights. The parametric design uses a selected tractor weight range of 2,500 -7,500 lb. The 12 tractor models included are representative of older tractors found on modern farms in Canada which would benefit from the installation of a cost-effective ROPS. As part of the current project, this weight range will be used as the basis for the subsequent parametric design and analysis of a ROPS structure intended to fit a multitude of tractor models. This work now allows the completion of a parametric model approach to allow a few designs to cover the majority of older tractors currently without ROPS.
To initiate the design and analysis of a parametric ROPS design to fit multiple tractors, a target weight range and representative set of tractor models were selected. There were several desired characteristics for this tractor selection. First, it should be representative of older tractors that would require ROPS installation. Second, it should span a weight range wide enough to include a variety of pre-ROPS tractor models. Finally, the target range should provide a rigorous, but realistic, test case to allow the project team to validate if a parametric ROPS concept is achievable. To develop the target range, candidate tractor models were compiled from several sources.
The compiled list covers a wide range of weights and production years, including modern models in which ROPS are either included as standard equipment or available direct from the OEM. The current project is primarily focused on older tractors produced before ROPS were common; therefore, a subset of tractor models was selected as the design basis for a parametric ROPS design. The selected range includes tractor operating weights from 2,500 to 7,500 lbs and models which first entered production between 1947 and 1973. Since most of these tractor models are associated with national programs in the USA, it is assumed that these would also be among the most common tractor models still in service today, on farms in Canada. Currently, 12 tractor models are included. This list is not intended to be exhaustive and other tractor models which fit within this range would also be suitable candidates for testing or design.
2021 - 2022 Year 3 Update
During Year 3, the Agricultural ROPS Canada website (www.agropscanada.ca) was created and made live. Additional content and functionality will be added to the website in Years 4 and 5. The website was designed as the distribution and awareness component of the Roll Out of Low-Cost Farmer Built ROPS into a National Program project. The purpose of the website is to provide information on accessing pre-fabrication ROPS in Canada as well as to supply engineer-developed blueprint drawings for those who want to build their own ROPS.
Producing Safe ROPS
One of the main challenges of this project is to design a ROPS that is structurally sound even when built by a farmer who is not necessarily an expert fabricator or welder. A special focus was placed on locating the welds away from high stress locations and using design techniques to keep the stresses low at the welds. A computer simulation using finite element analysis (FEA) showed that only the bottom corners are high stress areas and those are on heavy angle iron, which is designed to flex as there is no weld at that location. Tests were also conducted to determine the impact of the weld quality on the performance of the proposed design.
To ensure that the initial farmer builds are being done safely, an onsite inspection of the tractor and ROPS is required. Due to COVID restrictions that has not been possible. However, work on developing the three innovative parametric designs is well ahead of schedule and with restrictions continuing to open up, it is anticipated that the on-farm builds and on-site inspections will be completed in Years 4 and 5.
Social Awareness Campaign
A key activity of this project is to conduct a social awareness and promotional campaign to encourage farmers to take advantage of the program and to raise awareness among safety professionals across Canada. In year 3, a presentation was given to a CASA committee of farm safety professionals from all across Canada about the project risk management strategy. The presentation was followed up with individual meetings with specific members, to hear their perspective and ensure each one of them was comfortable with and supportive of the project.
2023 - 2024 Year 5 Update
Wassermann, J. 2021. Presentation to CASA committee of cross-Canada health and safety professionals. Presented virtually from Saskatoon, SK, November 2021.
Wassermann, J., Kelly, T., Koehncke, N. 2022. ROPS Fact Poster - Canadian ROPS Key Stats. January, 2022.
Wassermann, J. Kelly, T., Koehncke, N. ROPS Fact Poster - Do you have a tractor that does not have a ROPS?. January, 2022.
Canadian Agriculture Injury Reporting (CAIR), Agricultural Fatalities in Canada, 2016. CAIR: University of Alberta. (2016). Retrieved from http://www.cair-sbac.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/CASA-CAIR-Report-English-FINAL-Web.pdf
SMARTRISK (2010). The economic burden of injury within the agricultural population in Canada. SMARTRISK: Toronto, ON (unpublished).
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.
Springfeldt, B. (1996). Rollover of tractors-international experiences. Safety Science 24(2):95-110