Minnesota: Reducing Farm Injuries by Making Equipment Safer

Minnesota has more than 75,000 individually or family-owned farms. During 2003–2014, one-third of all Minnesotans who died at work were engaged in activities related to farming. Of the 20 fatal farming injuries in Minnesota in 2014, 8 involved contact with farm equipment and vehicles, and 10 were classified as transportation incidents. Tractor rollovers are a leading cause of death for farmworkers. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) used a portion of its Preventive Health and Health Services (PHHS) Block Grant funding to support activities of the Center for Occupational Health and Safety (COHS) to reduce farm-related injuries.

The most effective way to prevent a tractor rollover death is by having a rollover protective structure (ROPS). A tractor equipped with a ROPS has a curved bar or cage over or behind the driver’s seat to protect the driver if the tractor rolls over. Having a ROPS is 99% effective in preventing injury or death when the driver uses a seatbelt, and is 70% effective without seatbelt use. Many older tractors don’t have a ROPS, and installing one can be expensive.

In 2015, COHS partnered with two other state agencies to create a program to help farmers install the ROPS on their tractors. The agencies explored the ROPS Retrofit Program hosted by the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health (NYCAMH), which helps farmers purchase these safety features for their tractors. After being approved for the program, the farmer can purchase and install a ROPS.

In 2016, the Minnesota legislature passed a law establishing a ROPS Retrofit Program, and the state set aside $250,000 to support this effort to improve farm safety. Private donors also gave almost $40,000 in additional funds. The program offers a 70% rebate to farmers for installing a ROPS on any tractor built before 1987.

The partnership with NYCAMH allowed COHS (and other Minnesota agencies) to dedicate all the state funding to ROPS rebates and marketing. NYCAMH handles the program’s administrative costs, including maintenance of the ROPS database.

By launching its ROPS Retrofit Program, Minnesota hopes to reduce deaths from tractor rollovers.

Story year: 2015

Photo: Farmer in a tractor

PHHS Block Grant funds helped MDH support a program to make farm equipment safer, such as this tractor with a rollover protective structure.

Page last reviewed: April 17, 2018