In 1976, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a standard requiring rollover protective structures on (ROPS) for agricultural tractors. The standard also includes requirements for providing instructions to employees who operate these tractors.
OSHA requirements are enforced only on farms with 11 or more employees or providing temporary housing for migrant labor on farms with 1o or less employees. However, all employers have a responsibility under the General Duty Clause to provide a workplace free of hazards. The intent of the standard is to reduce injuries and illnesses to operators. Tractor overturns are one of the leading causes of farm-related fatalities in Wisconsin and nationally.
What are the requirements for agricultural tractors under the OSHA standard?
The OSHA ROPS standard requires that agricultural tractors (see 2 exemptions) manufactured after October 25, 1976 meet the following requirements:
- A ROPS must be provided on each tractor operated by an employee.
- Where ROPS are required, each tractor must be equipped with a seatbelt.
- The employer must insure that each employee tighten the seatbelt sufficiently to confine the employee to the protected area provided by the ROPS while the tractor is moving.
- Batteries, fuel tank, oil reservoirs, and coolant systems must be constructed and located so spillage will not contact the operator in the event of an upset.
- All sharp edges and corners at the operator’s station must be designed to minimize injury in case of an upset.
Two exemptions of agricultural tractors
- Low profile tractors while used in orchards, vineyards, farm buildings, or greenhouses where vertical height would interfere with the normal operations. A low profile tractor has front wheel spacing equal to the rear wheel spacing, ground clearance to bottom of chassis not more than 18 inches, highest point of the hood not greater than 60 inches and operator straddles the transmission when seated.
- Tractors while used with mounted equipment that is incompatible with ROPS such as corn pickers.
What are the requirements for providing training to employees operating tractors?
Any employee who operates an agricultural tractor must be informed of the following operating practices and any other work practices necessary to create a safe working environment. This information must be provided to the employee prior to the initial assignment to operate the tractor and at least 1 time per year thereafter. (Effective June 1, 1975).
- Securely fasten your seatbelt if the tractor has a ROPS
- Where possible, avoid operating the tractor near ditches, embankments, and holes
- Reduce speed when turning, crossing slopes, and on rough, slick, or muddy surfaces
- Stay off slopes too steep for safe operation
- Watch where you are going, especially at row ends, on roads, and around trees
- Do not permit others to ride
- Operate the tractor smoothly, no jerky turns, starts, or stops
- Hitch only to the drawbar and hitch points recommended by tractor manufacturers
- When the tractor is stopped, set brakes securely and use park lock if available
What are my requirements as an employer to document the training?
OSHA for this standard does not require employers to document that employees have received instruction. However, it would be beneficial to an employer to keep a record of the training. The training record should include date of training, employee trained and signed off on training and materials that were used in the training. This record of training provides documentation that may be helpful in case of a lawsuit, insurance claims or employee grievances.
Employers’ Instructional Guide – Training Employees Who Operate Agricultural Tractors is a fact sheet available from Iowa State University Extension and written by Charles Schwab, Extension Safety Specialist. A pdf of the fact sheet is available here.