Rollover protective structures, or ROPS, saved more than $4 million in prevented deaths and injuries among New York State farm workers from 2007 to 2017, according to a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)-funded study published in the American Journal of Public HealthExternal.

ROPS, which became standard tractor equipment in 1985, help prevent injuries from tractor overturns –the leading cause of farm-related deaths. However, many tractors made before 1985 are still in use. When added, or retrofitted, to these older machines, ROPS have been shown to significantly reduce the risk of deaths and injuries during tractor overturns.

Why farmers didn't want to use ROPS

Past studies revealed that farmers, in particular those in New York State, preferred not to use this equipment due to various reasons, including concerns about the cost, finding appropriate ROPS and lack of storage space for the tractor after ROPS installation. These challenges, combined with a high national ranking for tractors without ROPs, led New York State to begin a program in 2007 to increase retrofitting. The New York ROPS Rebate Program, developed by a NIOSH-funded project at Bassett Healthcare, aims to address barriers that farmers face related to the retrofitting of ROPS on tractors. The program relies on state funding to provide incentives such as a rebate of approximately 70% of the cost to retrofit a tractor (including purchase of the ROPS kit, shipping, and installation).

Recently, a study at Bassett Healthcare evaluated the cost-effectiveness of this program. The program spent $1,776.608 retrofitting machinery. The program saved $6,018,742 in prevented injuries and deaths by helping to prevent 10 deaths and 14 injuries related to approximately 47 rollovers spanning a period of 11 years.

Out of 1,567 tractors retrofitted, investigators collected information on 1,054 (67.2%) through a survey completed by program participants and calls from them through a hotline. Investigators used this information to estimate the total number of rollovers and prevented deaths and injuries. They then used cost information from other published studies on tractor overturns to calculate the program’s cost savings.

Return on investment

Investigators also projected future savings based on the tractors being in operation 15, 20, or 25 years after retrofitting. The cost of future avoided injuries totaled more than $12 million at 15 years, nearly $16 million at 20 years, and almost $19 million at 25 years. According to the investigators, this study demonstrates that the New York ROPS Rebate Program is effective from both a public health and economic standpoint. This research aims to help other states and groups at high risk for tractor overturn injuries make informed decisions about investing in tractor overturn prevention.

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