Tractor Accident Can Happen to Anyone

A Tractor Accident Can Happen to Anyone (Youtube Video Link)


From January 2000 through July 2005, 29 tractor-related fatalities were identified in West Virginia. The mean age at death was 58 with a range of 31 to 85 years; all but one of the victims were male. These deaths occurred in 20 of West Virginia’s 55 counties. Sixty-six percent of the incidents involved tractor overturns or rollovers, 21 percent involved being pinned by a tractor, and 7 percent involved power takeoffs. West Virginia’s rugged and generally mountainous terrain increased the risk of rollovers and the subsequent fatal injuries to tractor operators.

As a result of the significant number of tractor rollover deaths, a survey was developed by the West Virginia University Center for Rural Emergency Medicine and the Injury Control Research Center (CREM/ICRC) in collaboration with the West Virginia Farm Bureau to gather information about farmers’ work habits, age and make of their tractors, rollover experiences, and their use or non-use of safety devices such as enclosed cabs, ROPS, and seat belts.

Surveys were mailed out to approximately 7,200 farmers belonging to the West Virginia Farm Bureau. Nearly 40 percent of the farmers completed and returned the survey. Sixty-five percent of the farmers reported that the tractor they most often used was equipped with a cab or roll bar. The most common reasons for not having ROPS were expense, unavailable option for their make of tractor, and belief that a rollover was unlikely. Of those who indicated their tractor was equipped with a seat belt, only 34 percent reported using the belt always or most of the time; yet, about 40 percent of the farmers reported that they experienced a close call with a rollover, 61 percent reported that they knew someone who had lost their life in a rollover event, and 60 percent knew someone who had been hurt in a rollover.

After conducting several farmer focus groups across West Virginia in January and February 2005, a 17-minute ROPS safety video, “A Tractor Accident Can Happen to Anyone,” was produced at West Virginia University (WVU). Its objective is to inform local farmers about the risks associated with tractor rollovers and the effectiveness of ROPS and seat belts in reducing traumatic injuries. The video was distributed to over 5,700 farmers in late summer 2005.

Accompanying the video was a survey to determine if the video has influenced farmers’ attitudes and habits about tractor safety and the use of ROPS. A toll-free number was provided to farmers who were considering installing ROPS on their older tractors. This project was funded by the Great Lakes Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (GLCASH).

The West Virginia ROPS video has been adapted for use by GLCASH for regional and national distribution. Dr. Jim Helmkamp, the Director of the WVU Injury Control Research Center, led the project. Wayne Lundstrom, the West Virginia Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Program Coordinator, produced the video, and Jacob Young of WVU Television and Radio Services directed the video. Jacob, an Emmy award-winning videographer, has made other videos for CREM/ICRC relating to logging safety, all-terrain vehicle (ATV) safety, and emergency preparedness for elderly persons.

The pilot study will help delineate advantages and limitations of the approach, and the data collected will help to generate study designs for future grant submissions. Long term, the use of virtual environments can serve to elucidate the etiology of occupational injuries and possibly help identify high-risk populations. Furthermore, the virtual environment will provide a safe methodology to evaluate the efficacy of occupational and safety training methods currently being employed.