NIOSHBy Paul R. Keane, MBA and Tony McKenzie, PhD. Mr. Keane is a Health Communication Specialist in the NIOSH Division of Safety Research. Dr. McKenzie is a Research Safety Engineer in the NIOSH Division of Safety Research.


Despite a decades-long effort to raise awareness about the importance of roll over protective structures (ROPS) in preventing injury and death from tractor roll overs, tractor overturns continue to be the leading cause of occupational agricultural death in the United States.

While all tractors produced since 1986 come with ROPS as standard equipment, farm tractors have a long life span.  Unless a tractor has been retrofitted, operators of older tractors are unprotected during rollovers.   We know there are various reasons for the reluctance to retrofit older tractors with ROPS.  We’ve heard them all: “They cost too much.” “They are too much of a hassle to find/install.” “My dad/grandpa/ mother/uncle never used them and they never had a problem.”  The fact remains that farmworkers continue to die while working on unprotected tractors. 

To address some of these concerns NIOSH has developed Cost-effective ROPS (CROPS) as an alternative to the commercially available ROPS which may be hard to find, or as an option for older wheeled agricultural tractors for which ROPS are not commercially available. The selection of CROPS can also be an alternative for users who do not wish to use an off-the-shelf ROPS.   The CROPS are typically less costly to manufacture, ship, and handle than commercially available ROPS structures. CROPS are designed to be constructed by the user or owner of the tractor, using parts that have been specified by NIOSH as meeting design and safety standards. Some parts must be manufactured by a qualified fabricator while others must be welded by a professional welder using proper procedures.  As you would expect, the CROPS have been successfully tested to industry standards. The CROPS designs, installation instructions, industry-standard testing results, and other information are available at the NIOSH CROPS topic page

During the creation and testing of the CROPS, NIOSH partnered with stakeholders, sponsored focused research, and oversaw the installation of CROPS on more than 70 tractors in New York, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.  We have solicited expert opinion from vendors, tractor users in the agriculture community, and other affected parties.  

We hope that by listening to farmers’ needs and concerns and providing another alternative, we can increase the use of roll over protection.  We know that older farm tractors remain a valuable asset to the farming community for countless reasons, including...Click here to read the rest of the post.