OSHA Requirements for Rollover Protective Structures for Tractors Used in Agricultural Operations

By Chris E. Marsh, M.Ed.

OSHA section C, 29 CFR 1928.51, discusses the rules for rollover protection for tractors on the farm or agricultural operations. The definition of agricultural tractor in this section is a two or four-wheel drive vehicle or track vehicle, with more than 20 engine hp, designed to furnish the power to pull, carry, propel or drive implements that are designed for agriculture. All self-propelled implements are excluded.

Low-profile tractor means a wheeled tractor possessing the following characteristics:

(a) The front wheel spacing is equal to the rear wheel spacing, as measured from the centerline of each right wheel to the centerline of the corresponding left wheel;

(b) The clearance from the bottom of the tractor chassis to the ground does not exceed 18 inches;

(c) The highest point of the hood does not exceed 60 inches; and

(d) The tractor is designed so that the operator straddles the transmission when seated.

Tractor weight includes the protective frame or enclosure, all fuels and other components required for normal use of the tractor. Ballast shall be added as necessary to achieve a minimum total weight of 110 pounds per maximum power takeoff horsepower at the rated engine speed or the maximum gross vehicle weight specified by the manufacturer, whichever is the greatest. Front end weight shall be at least 25 percent of the tractor test weight. In case power takeoff horsepower is not available, 95 percent of net engine flywheel horsepower shall be used.

General requirements

Agricultural tractors manufactured after October 25, 1976, shall meet the following requirements.

Rollover protective structures (ROPS) shall be provided by the employer for each tractor operated by an employee. Except as provided in paragraph (b)(5) (exempted uses) of this section, a ROPS used on wheel-type tractors shall meet the test and performance requirements of 29 CFR 1928.52, 1928.53 or 1926.1002 (construction), as appropriate. A ROPS used on track-type tractors shall meet the test and performance requirements of 29 CFR 1926.1001 (construction).

Where ROPS are required by this section, the employer shall:

(a) Provide each tractor with a seat belt that meets the requirements of this paragraph;

(b) Ensure that each employee uses such seat belt while the tractor is moving;

(c) Ensure that each employee tightens the seat belt sufficiently to confine the employee to the protected area provided by the ROPS.

Each seat belt shall meet the requirements set forth in Society of Automotive Engineers Standard SAE J4C, 1965 Motor Vehicle Seat Belt Assemblies, except for the information below.

OSHA defines an agricultural tractor as a two or four-wheel drive vehicle or track vehicle, with more than 20 hp, designed to furnish the power to pull, carry, propel or drive agricultural implements.
Photo courtesy of taliesin/morguefile.com.

Where a suspended seat is used, the seat belt shall be fastened to the movable portion of the seat to accommodate a ride motion of the operator. The seat belt anchorage shall be capable of withstanding a static tensile load of 1,000 pounds at 45 degrees to the horizontal equally divided between the anchorages. The seat mounting shall be capable of withstanding this load, plus a load equal to four times the weight of all applicable seat components applied at 45 degrees to the horizontal in a forward and upward direction. In addition, the seat mounting shall be capable of withstanding a 500-pound belt load, plus two times the weight of all applicable seat components, both applied at 45 degrees to the horizontal in an upward and rearward direction.

The seat belt webbing material shall have a resistance to acids, alkalies, mildew, aging, moisture and sunlight equal to or better than that of untreated polyester fiber.

Batteries, fuel tanks, oil reservoirs and coolant systems shall be constructed and located or sealed to prevent any spillage from coming in contact with the operator in the event of an upset.

All sharp edges and corners at the operator's station shall be designed to minimize operator injury in the event of an upset.

Exempted uses

The above requirements do not apply to the following uses:

Low-profile tractors while they are used in orchards, vineyards or hopyards where the vertical clearance requirements would substantially interfere with normal operations, and while their use is incidental to the work performed therein.

Low-profile tractors while used inside a farm building or greenhouse in which the vertical clearance is insufficient to allow a ROPS-equipped tractor to operate, and while their use is incidental to the work performed therein.

Tractors while used with mounted equipment that is incompatible with ROPS (corn pickers, cotton strippers, vegetable pickers and fruit harvesters).


Where ROPS are removed for any reason, they shall be remounted so as to meet OSHA requirements.


Each ROPS shall have a label, permanently affixed to the structure, that states the manufacturer's or fabricator's name and address, ROPS model number, if any, and tractor makes, models or series numbers that the structure is designed to fit. It must also indicate that the ROPS model was tested in accordance with OSHA requirements.

Employees must be trained in proper operating instructions, and this training should be documented.
Photo courtesy of earl53/morguefile.com.

Operating instructions

Every employee who operates an agricultural tractor shall be informed of the operating practices contained in Appendix A of section C, and of any other practices dictated by the work environment. Such information shall be provided at the time of initial assignment and at least annually thereafter. Do not forget to document this training listed below.

The following are the employee operating instructions each employee should be trained in.

1. Securely fasten your seat belt if the tractor has a ROPS.

2. Where possible, avoid operating the tractor near ditches, embankments and holes.

3. Reduce speed when turning, crossing slopes, and on rough, slick or muddy surfaces.

4. Stay off slopes too steep for safe operation.

5. Watch where you are going, especially at row ends, on roads and around trees.

6. Do not permit others to ride.

7. Operate the tractor smoothly - no jerky turns, starts or stops.

8. Hitch only to the drawbar and hitch points recommended by tractor manufacturers.

9. When tractor is stopped, set brakes securely and use park lock if available.

There is also a section 1928.52 for protective frames for wheel-type agricultural tractors and a section 1928.53 for protective enclosures for wheel-type agricultural tractors. You can get this information from www.osha.gov by typing 29 CFR 1928.52 or 1928.53 in the box at the top of the page.

Chris E. Marsh owns Ogeechee Training Service, Inc. in Statesboro, Ga. He provides training in OSHA topics and drug-free workplace requirements. He can be reached at ogeecheetrs@bulloch.net or 912-865-4500.