Overturn Protection for Compact Utility Tractors

Richard L. Parish  |  11/17/2004 11:12:25 PM

Compact utility tractors are small diesel tractors with less than 40 horsepower. They are very popular for homeowners with small acreages as well as for grounds maintenance contractors and small farmers. All current models of these tractors come equipped with two important safety features: a rollover protective structure (ROPS) and a seatbelt. These two safety components can go a long way toward protecting you in case of an overturn - if you use them!

The Theory
A ROPS is designed to provide a safe "envelope" for the operator in the event of an overturn. ROPS are carefully designed and manufactured, in many cases using special steel, to protect the operator from being crushed in rearward, sideways or other overturns. The ROPS may deform somewhat in an overturn but will still provide a protected envelope for the operator.

Seatbelt
It is critical that the operator remain in that protected envelope. That is the job of the seatbelt. A ROPS cannot do its job if the operator is thrown out of the protected envelope. To attain any significant protection from a ROPS, you must wear your seatbelt (Figure 1). A common excuse for not wearing a seatbelt is that the belt hangs down and gets dirty. If you always wear it, it won’t have a chance to hang down and get dirty!

Folding ROPS
Some ROPS can be folded down to provide access to low buildings, for working under trees or for hauling the tractor. The tractor is not designed to be operated for any significant time with the ROPS folded. A folded ROPS offers no protection. Restore the ROPS to its effective position as soon as the low clearance situation is ended.

One caution with ROPS
When mowing or otherwise operating under trees, you must be especially careful of low limbs if your tractor has a two-post ROPS, the most common kind on compact utility tractors. Running under a low limb can cause you to be pinned back against the ROPS by the limb. This is not an argument against ROPS; when operating under low limbs without a ROPS, you could be knocked off the seat and run over by your implement. You just have to recognize the danger and watch out for limbs.

Note that if you have a tractor without a ROPS, you should not wear a seatbelt. Without a ROPS, you may have a better chance of surviving an overturn if you are thrown clear. If you have a ROPS on your tractor, always wear your seatbelt.

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