Ohio-based Westfield Insurance Foundation and Penn State University recently announced Westfield's $15,000 gift to Penn State University's Ag Safety and Health program. The funds, presented to Aaron Yoder, project coordinator, and Dennis Murphy, Distinguished Professor of Agricultural Safety and Health, will be used to underwrite the state's ROPS Retrofit program.
The program provides rebates of $765 to install rollover protection structures, or ROPS, on tractors. Tractor overturns are the leading cause of U.S. farm deaths. And the risk is highest in the Northeast. That's why a ROPS rebate program is in place serving farmers in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont.
The ROPS Retrofit program fits well with Westfield Insurance, a property and casualty insurance company and writer of farm business insurance, according to Westfield Insurance President Ed Largent. "Westfield Insurance Foundation supports safety programs that prevent risk and stop tragedies from happening in the first place."
ROPS badly needed, yet underfunded
More than 40% of tractors in Pennsylvania lack roll bar protection, Yoder points out. "We know how to stop these fatalities – simply get a roll bar on each tractor. Rollover structures, along with seatbelts, are 99% effective in preventing fatalities in the event of a tractor overturn."
The project kicked off early this month. Murphy notes that the Westfield contribution will accelerate the pace of retrofitting tractors. More than 165 cases are pending. Of these pending cases, 67 farmers have received price estimates. Another 99 are on a waiting list for rebate money.
The rollover-prevention equipment generally costs between $800 and $1,000. "Many farmers don't want to go through the hassle of ordering and installing the equipment," adds Yoder. But he argues that ROPS should be considered as inexpensive insurance, like health and life insurance.
Through the ROPS Retrofit Program, farmers are reimbursed 70% of the cost of the roll bar and seat belt kit up to $765.
"It's hard to overstate the need for tractor-rollover protection in the commonwealth," Murphy says. "One in 10 farmers will overturn a tractor in his or her lifetime, and 80% of tractor rollovers happen to highly experienced tractor operators.
"And the results are devastating. Seven of 10 farms are out of business within one year of a rollover fatality to the main operator. And one in seven farmers involved in a tractor rollover is permanently disabled."
Thus far, the Pennsylvania ROPS Retrofit program, including the Westfield contribution, has received nearly $43,000 in donations. Other supporters of Pennsylvania's ROPS Retrofit Program include Farm Family Casualty Insurance Company, Land O' Lakes, AgChoice Farm Credit, Mid-Atlantic Farm Credit, Montgomery County Farm Bureau, Central Susquehanna Community Foundation and Marlboro Mushrooms.
For more details, visit http://www.ropsr4u.com online. Or call the toll-free ROPS Rebate Hotline at (877) ROPS-R4U (877-767-7748).