If statistical averages hold true, about 16 Arkansans could die in farm-related accidents this year.

The two leading causes of farm-related deaths in Arkansas are tractor roll-overs and traffic collisions. These have accounted for more than 30 percent of farm-related deaths in the last decade.

All tractors should have a safety feature called Rollover Protective Structure, or ROPS. This structure is a cab or frame that protects a tractor operator in the event of a rollover or collision

In the livestock-producing areas of the state, more than half of farm tractors don't have ROPS. If your tractors aren't equipped with ROPS, you and other operators are exposed to unnecessary risk.

A ROPS provides a measure of safety during tractor overturns, but every operator needs more protection. All operators of tractors equipped with ROPS should wear seat belts. Without a seat belt, an operator will not be confined to the protected zone.

Road fatalities in collisions between cars and farm equipment have increased the last five years in Arkansas. It's recommended that equipment operators use extra caution entering a road, drive defensively, improve implement lighting, use a "slow-moving" emblem and use escorts.

Special alertness to traffic and defensive driving are vital when making left turns off roads. Should a motorist collide with you, a ROPS and fastened seat belt could save your life. Few farmers with this equipment have been injured, and none fatally in the United States, according to records kept of tractors with ROPS.

Older tractors can be retrofitted with rollover protective structures. Check with your local dealer or county extension office.

Information about manufacturers, models and approximate costs of obtaining

retrofit ROPS for tractors is available through Gary Huitink, extension engineer. You can go through your county extension office to get this information.

Be aware that retrofitting may pose a difficult decision because the retrofit cost can exceed an older tractor's market value.

For more information, contact your county extension agent or check extension's website at The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the U of A Division of Agriculture.

Safety tips for farmers operating equipment

There are ways to reduce the potential of a tractor rollover. However, these safety practices can't substitute for a Rollover Protective Structure (ROPS). Follow these tips, train employees and family to use the seat belts on every tractor equipped with ROPS:

--Reduce speed on rough ground, certainly where holes or stumps may occur.

--Reduce speed on slopes where washouts, rocks and stumps are major hazards.

--Increase tractor stability when working on slopes by spreading tractor wheels as wide as possible. Add front or rear wheel weights to improve balance for rear- or front-mounted implements. Avoid heavy drawbar loads unless the load is counterbalanced, the tractor has a ROPS and you use the seat belt.

--Stay clear of ditches, embankments, stumps, rocks and other obstacles.

--Turn slowly. Abrupt turns cause tractor instability that is unpredictable due to uncertain traction, linear momentum and centrifugal force.

--ALWAYS hitch the load only to the tractor draw bar. NEVER fasten any load to the axle or to the top lift link. Don't attach implements without three-point hitches to the tractor three-point hydraulic lift.

--Avoid turning uphill when operating on steep slopes. Only turn uphill on moderate slopes after you have slowed down in order to turn with full control.

--Operate front-end loaders and move hay bales with the load as low as possible. Raise a loader only when aligned and approaching a truck or trailer.

--When operating an unfamiliar tractor, use much slower speeds until you gain experience with the controls and operating characteristics of that tractor.

--Lock brake pedals together before driving at transport speeds. You can reduce your risk of being injured or killed while operating a tractor.

Check your equipment for the following items:

--Confirm that all tractors with ROPS on your farm have working seat belts.

--Post a reminder for operators to wear a seat belt on tractors with ROPS.

--Make a commitment with specific deadlines to phase out or retrofit all tractors without ROPS.

--Identify tasks near steep embankments, ditches, washouts, etc. Do these tasks, or entrust them to a cautious, experienced driver, using a tractor equipped with a ROPS. Use the seat belt and avoid areas prone to cause a tractor rollover.

--Instruct and then require everyone who operates your tractors with ROPS to use the seatbelt.

--Establish and maintain a "No Rider" policy for tractors--especially for children.

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