Farming is dangerous work. In fact, farmers are eight times more likely to die on the job than the average worker. Tractor rollovers are the leading cause of farmer deaths, and the Northeast has the highest rate of tractor rollover fatalities in the country. A death occurred this fall in Orange, Vt., when a farmer was moving a log splitter to a woodlot and his tire slipped off the road, causing the tractor to roll over into a roadside ditch, crushing him beneath it. He was pronounced dead at the scene. This was the third fatal rollover in Vermont this year. A happier outcome recently happened in Northfield, when a young woman was turning a compost pile with a bucket when she rolled the tractor on its side, stopping at a 90-degree angle. She survived this incident without injury. The difference was a roll bar and seat belt.
There is not one documented case of a farmer dying in a tractor rollover if that tractor was equipped with a roll bar and seat belt kit (Rollover Protective Structure = ROPS), because these kits are 99 percent effective. The average cost to install ROPS on a Vermont tractor is $930. The death in Orange, and every other death associated with tractor rollovers, could have been prevented with this small, one-time investment in farm equipment.
In addition to the family tragedy caused by fatal tractor overturns, the estimated cost per incident to society is $910,000. This preventable event has a crippling effect on farm businesses. In fact, studies show that seven out of 10 farms go out of business within one year of a fatal overturn. A farm loss can also cause a ripple effect on area businesses associated with agriculture, such as grain stores, delivery trucks/services/suppliers, veterinary services and other farms.
UVM Extension launched the Vermont Rebates for Roll Bars program on September 28, 2010, in response to this threat. The goal of this program is to prevent farm-related deaths by providing rebates (70 percent of total ROPS cost) and an information hotline to help farmers retrofit their older tractors with ROPS. Response to this program has far exceeded expectations. Before the launch, UVM Extension surveyed farmers and discovered that very few even knew they could retrofit their tractor. Since the launch, 331 farmers have registered, and 126 have installed roll bar/seat belt kits on their tractors. The present rebate paid to Vermont farmers is averaging $651, with a rebate maximum of $765.
The Vermont Rebates for Roll Bars team has feverishly raised funds to keep up with this demand, but more rebate money is critically necessary to help more farmers desiring to protect themselves and their businesses from avoidable tragedy. While the Vermont Rebates for Roll Bars Program has received significant support from area businesses, the substantial farmer demand for roll bar kits statewide has depleted funds available to provide rebates. Thirty-five tractor owners who would like to retrofit with roll bar kits to protect themselves and their families are now on a wait list until additional contributions accumulate. Considering that ROPS will protect tractor drivers and their businesses for the life of the tractor (up to 40-plus years) from their leading cause of death, contributors to the ROPS fund know that their contribution will make a lasting--and potentially life-saving--difference. Please consider joining the Vermont Rebates for Roll Bars program in this historic, statewide effort to protect human life and sustain agricultural businesses for decades. A total of $23,100 will move 35 tractor owners off the wait list so they too can protect their families and farms from tragic loss.
UVM Extension launched a new online fundraising effort that began November 8 called crowd funding. Go to www.indiegogo.com/vtfarmer
to learn more and make a contribution.