ST. PAUL – Minnesota is celebrating Farm Safety and Health Week Sept. 18-24, just months after a major state breakthrough in incentivizing tractor safety.
A volunteer Rollover Protective Structures Rebate Program was created during the 2016 legislative session and launched in July. The program encourages the installation of safety equipment on tractors – mainly older ones – by reimbursing farmers and schools at least 70 percent of the cost of purchasing, shipping, and installing a rollover protection kit.
“Tractor rollovers happen all too often and one thing we learned is the cost of adding roll bars has discouraged farmers from installing them,” said Rep. Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin. “While we will never be able to remove all safety hazards from farming, we wanted to increase access to common-sense safety equipment, namely roll bars.”
In addition to $250,000 in state funding for the ROPS program, several agricultural companies provided $40,000 in donations. The fledgling program already has proved popular, with nearly all the funds set aside for the first year having been allocated.
Reports show that, between 2003 and 2013, workplace fatalities in Minnesota’s agricultural industry rose by 30 percent. Other studies indicate that, while the occupational fatality rate for farmers is 800 percent higher than other industries, roll bars and seat belts are 99 percent effective in preventing death and serious injury in the event of a rollover.
“We are at that time of year when farmers are spending long hours on tractors,” Lueck said. “I urge everyone to take extra care during the harvest season, from those driving tractors to motorists sharing the roads with them.”