Tractor Overturn Concerns in Iowa: Perspectives from the Keokuk County Rural Health Study

Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health
  • Merchant, James A.;
  • Reynolds, Stephen, J.;
  • Burmeister, Leon F.;
  • Kelly, Kevin M.;
  • Madsen, Murray D.;
  • Rautiainen, Risto H.;
  • Sanderson, Wayne T.;
  • Stromquist, Ann M.;
  • Taylor, Craig D.;
  • Zwerling, Craig


Agriculture remains one of the most hazardous industries in the U.S., with tractor overturns producing the greatest number of agricultural machinery-related fatalities. Rollover protective structures (ROPS) and seatbelts effectively reduce tractor overturn deaths. However, a large proportion of tractors in use in American agriculture are older tractors without ROPS and seatbelts. This article describes the tractor-related responses from participants in a population-based study conducted in Keokuk County, Iowa. This study was designed to measure rural and agricultural adverse health and injury outcomes and their respective risk factors. Questionnaires were partially developed from well-documented national surveys. Questions about agricultural machinery use, presence of safety equipment on the machinery, work practices, and attitudes about farm safety were included. Study participants on farms who owned tractors had an average of 3.1 tractors with an average age of 27 years. Only 39% of the 665 tractors had ROPS. Tractor age was associated with the presence of ROPS; 84% of tractors manufactured after 1984 were ROPS-equipped, whereas only 3% of tractors manufactured before 1960 were ROPS-equipped. ROPS-equipped tractors were significantly more common on larger farms and households with higher income. Only 4% of the farmers reported that their tractors had seatbelts and they wore them when operating their tractors. The results of this study support the findings of other studies, which indicate that many older tractors without ROPS and seatbelts remain in use in American agriculture. Until a dramatic reduction in the number of tractors in the U.S. operated without ROPS and seatbelts is achieved, the annual incidence of 120 to 130 deaths associated with tractor overturns will persist.

Full article can be found in: Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health
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