Harvest time in Illinois is always fraught with danger for those working on tractors and other agricultural equipment. While people may not consider farm work to be inherently dangerous, those who toil on farms for their living are well-acquainted with the dangers that are present in their everyday activities.
One particular hazard they face is overturned tractors. This summer, the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced a recall of tractor canopies that failed to meet design specifications.
Although there were no injuries from the failed design, it was feared that use of the canopies might make the Rollover Protective Structures (ROPS) on the tractors fail.
Tractor deaths top list
Overturned tractors cause the greatest number of occupational agricultural deaths in the country. In one 13-year period, at least 1,412 farm workers died when their tractors overturned.
Industry professionals designed roll-over protective structures (ROPS) to keep those operating the tractors from injuries or death. ROPS provide a zone of protection around the operator should the tractor tip over. ROPS work best when operators use their seatbelts.
Protecting farm workers
If you are a farm worker in Illinois, there is a good chance that you might be expected to operate a tractor that is not equipped with ROPS. Only you can decide if the benefits — money and continued employment — are worth the risk: injury or death.
Farmers have been slow to adapt to installing ROPS on older-model tractors, which is a source of frustration to those who work in the field of agricultural safety.
Typically, only about 46 percent of Midwestern farms used ROPS-equipped tractors. The age of the farmer tended to predict whether they would use ROPS. Younger farmers were much more likely to adopt this safety feature, with 57 percent of those age 25-34 using them. That figure dropped to 42 percent for farmers 66 and older.
Seek compensation for work injuries
If you are working on a farm and get injured on an overturned tractor or other piece of agricultural machinery, you need to understand your rights and responsibilities after the accident. By timely filing a claim, you may be entitled to have your medical bills covered, as well as receive financial compensation.