WALPOLE, N.H. — In 2010, New Hampshire was the third among a growing number of states to launch a tractor roll-over safety program. Tractor roll-overs are the leading cause of death on American farms while farming remains one of this country's most dangerous jobs.
The New Hampshire Rollover Protection System Rebate Program reimburses farmers 70 percent of the cost (up to a total of $865) of retrofitting an unprotected tractor. Now entering its sixth year, the New Hampshire program has assisted farmers in retrofitting tractors around the state and currently has funding to retrofit at least 10 more though the generosity of sponsors.
"Thanks to the early leadership of New Hampshire Department of Agriculture Commissioner Lorraine Merrill and the New Hampshire Farm Bureau, local farmers have been able to retrofit older tractors with a reinforced roll bar and seat belt system, referred to as ROPS, that has been proven to be 99 percent effective in preventing injury and death in the event of a tractor overturn," said John May, MD, deputy director of the Northeast Center for Occupational Health: Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing program.
May helped start the first ROPS rebate program in New York and now advocates for a national program. He speaks today about farm health and safety issues throughout the United States and in New Hampshire at the New Hampshire Women in Agriculture conference during the Farm & Forest Expo at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester.
Building on the success of early programs in New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, programs have more recently been launched in Wisconsin and Massachusetts. ROPS retrofitting programs are now being designed in several other Midwestern and Southeastern states. Farm safety advocates are working toward a National ROPS Rebate Program, which would be available to farmers throughout the United States.
"This has proven to be a great program," said May. "Ninety-nine percent of program participants would encourage friends to use the program. We have a growing list of farmers who feel that their new ROPS has saved them from serious injury or death in subsequent incidents."
"A total of 1,538 agricultural workers were killed from tractor rollover accidents from 1992 to 2007 — this was according to the American Journal of Industrial Medicine. And two individuals were killed in tractor rollover incidents in New Hampshire just this past growing season," said Agricultural Development Director Gail McWilliam Jellie during one of the state's launch events in Walpole in 2010. "Because farmers and farm workers die in isolated incidents, their deaths are grieved by their families and communities, but not so much noticed in the larger world."