All farm tractors should have rollover protection systems, expert says

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – About 30 percent of the tractor-related deaths in Pennsylvania in 2001 were a direct result of tractor overturn. Annually, tractor overturns account for more than 100 fatalities nationwide.

A farm safety expert in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences said farm families should install rollover protection systems on all operating tractors.

“Tractor manufacturers have voluntarily installed [rollover protection systems] on all new tractors since 1985,” Dennis Murphy said. “Still, nationwide data show that nearly two out of three tractors in the United States do not have an approved [rollover protection system] structure on them.”

Murphy also said farmers should be particularly familiar with safe operating principles for tractors and understand load and balance dynamics for operating tractors on uneven or hilly terrain.

He emphasizes that farmers also should know the correct procedure for pulling loads to prevent the tractor from rolling over backwards.

“Use of [rollover protection systems] and seat belts on tractors can save lives and injuries,” Murphy says. “It may cost extra dollars to retrofit an older tractor with [rollover protection systems] and seat belts, but the result will be safer operating conditions for every tractor operator on the farm.”

Prevention. Murphy offers a few preventative tips that he said will help farmers make their tractor-driving time safer.

* Outfit all tractors with rollover protection systems and seat belts.

* Make sure you’ve read the operating manual before using any equipment.

* Perform service and maintenance on the tractor before operating it.

* Set the wheel tread at the widest possible setting.

* Slow down when turning, crossing slopes or driving on slick, rough or muddy surfaces.

* If you must drive on steep slopes, drive in reverse up the slope or forward down the slope. Never drive across a steep slope.

* Avoid ditches, embankments, riverbanks and holes. Stay away from edges.

* If the tractor becomes stuck in a ditch, always back out.

* Hitch all loads to the drawbar. Pull the load slowly and increase speed very gradually.

* Use front-end weights to increase tractor stability when pulling a heavy load.

* If the tractor has a front-end loader, drive with the bucket or load as low as possible.

* Lock brake pedals together when traveling on public roads.

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