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Save Lives With CROPS

Agriculture.com Staff Updated: 05/13/2014 @ 11:44am

No one questions that rollover protective structures (ROPS) save lives. However, retrofitting old tractors is a hard sell because of the cost and availability. It’s estimated that about half of the 4.8 million tractors in the U.S. do not have ROPS. Overturns are likely to remain a leading cause of fatalities as long as these old tractors are used.

To address this intractable problem, the National Institute of Safety and Health (NIOSH) developed an alternative: cost-effective ROPS (CROPS). CROPS cost less to manufacture, ship, and handle than ROPS. They use specified parts that meet NIOSH design and safety standards, but they don’t have to be assembled at the dealership.

“Only one part needs to be welded by a certified professional welder,” says Tony McKenzie, research safety engineer, NIOSH division of safety research. “I traveled to farms to check the installation of CROPS shipped directly. Two women had rented a torque wrench from AutoZone and installed theirs perfectly.”

CROPS designs, installation instructions, photos, testing videos, industry-standard testing results, and other information are available at cdc.gov/niosh/topics/aginjury/crops/.

CROPS fit 200,000 tractors still in use

The research, development, and testing of CROPS required 10 years of work by a small team in the NIOSH division of safety research and protective technology in Morgantown, West Virginia. They partnered with a coalition of NIOSH ag centers, land-grant universities, and the Virginia Farm Bureau to install CROPS on 82 tractors in New York, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Virginia, California, and West Virginia.

CROPS are available only for four popular tractor models: Ford 8N, Ford 3000, Ford 4000, and Massey Ferguson 135. However, these four plans encompass 27 different tractor models. (Click on “Crossover Models.”)

“The CROPS available for these four models can be used to retrofit approximately 200,000 tractors still in operation today,” McKenzie says.

The cost of a CROPS is roughly one half the cost of installing a ROPS. “A ROPS for the 8N would cost $1,000, including shipping. Our locally manufactured CROPS was $700,” McKenzie says. “When we ordered 40, the cost dropped to under $400.”

Seat belts are essential for maximum protection in case of a rollover, and CROPS offer an advantage. “Some commercial retrofit ROPS include a seat belt but don’t have defined attachment locations,” McKenzie says.

NIOSH is working with a company interested in fabricating and adding CROPS to its replacement and add-on parts list.

Stick with the script

The development of CROPS is a step toward reducing rollover fatalities. One caution: Specified design, installation, tools, and other items must be used to build a certified CROPS.

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