ROPS stands for Roll Over Protection System. ROPS is a cab or frame that provides safety to the operator in the event of a rollover or overturning. It prevents the operator from being crushed under the tractor in case of accidental overturning. ROPS is designed by prevent death and minimize injuries during accidents. The ROPS bars have the strength to safety bear the weight of the tractor in case of accidental overturning. However, the driver must wear seatbelt to get benefit of ROPS.
Tractors overturning are one of the major causes of fatal accidents to agricultural workers each year. A United States report stated that at least 92 deaths per year were due to tractor overturn (Harris, 2008) while in India incidence rate of such deaths were about 5.7 per 100,000 workers per year (Gite, 2010). These deaths may have been prevented if the tractors had been equipped with a ROPS. ROPS was first introduced in US in 1965. Each ROPS design must pass a series of static and crush tests for introduction in the market.
While Indian manufacturers are providing canopy support, this is primarily for protection from the sun and the rain and does not provide adequate safety in the case of overturns. Given the lack of safety awareness and the high cost of ROPS there are hardly any tractors in India with factory fitted ROPS. However, all Indian manufacturers have the capability to provide ROPS since they include it in their export models for the US and other developed countries. Furthermore, manufacturers believe design of axle housing will have to be modified for incorporation of ROPS. Current models of tractors are less likely to incorporate ROPS due to variation of the axle housing top, fender location and the axle housing strength. Mostly, tractor axle housings are being made of grey cast iron which is responsible for strength particularly in torsional loading. Therefore, it is a challenge to retrofit ROPS on current tractors. After much consideration GOI has recently decided that ROPS should be mandatory fitment for tractors sold in India in the future. The cost of the tractor is likely to increase by Rs 10,000 – 20,000 because of ROPS.
Regardless of ROPS, all operators should prioritize safety as they operate the tractors. Operators should avoid sharp turns and reduce speed during turns. Tractors have high center of gravity and therefore are at a higher risk of tipping during turns. Also, operators should avoid driving on steep slopes, deep ditches and around holes. These are high risk areas where the tractors can lose control and roll over. If steep slopes are unavoidable, then always head down slopes and back up on upward slopes. This will reduce the risk of overturning. Lastly, always remember to wear a seat belt while operating a tractor with ROPS.