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An initial farmer evaluation of a NIOSH AutoROPS prototype

International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.ergon.2004.03.007
  • Rops
  • Passive Protection
  • Evaluation
  • Design
  • Usability
  • Agricultural Science
  • Design
  • Engineering


Abstract This evaluation study is a part of the NIOSH safety engineering research program on developing new types of rollover protective structures (ROPS) for farm tractors. Each year hundreds of people die as a result of agricultural tractor rollovers. The use of rollover protective structures (ROPS), along with seat belts, is the best-known method for reducing the frequency of these fatalities. One impediment to ROPS use, however, is low clearance situations, such as orchards and animal confinement buildings. Adjustable ROPS have been developed by the agricultural equipment industry to address the issue of low clearance situations. If these adjustable ROPS are used properly, they are quite effective systems. The problem is that they require the operator to take an active role in making sure the ROPS is properly adjusted when not in a low clearance situation—a task some operators may not consistently perform. To address the need for ROPS that are easily adapted to low clearance situations, NIOSH researchers have developed an automatically deploying, telescoping ROPS (AutoROPS). The objective of this study was to get an initial measurement of the usability of the NIOSH AutoROPS among tractor operators who would be probable users of this new technology. The study was not intended to evaluate all of the factors in the use of the AutoROPS. This study only examines whether farmers had an initial positive interest in this new concept for preventing tractor rollover-related fatalities. The procedure for comparing the AutoROPS prototype with a foldable ROPS was of a general nature. What was being sought were general opinions about the concept. A cost comparison was not a factor in this study. However, cost-effectiveness is an important criterion in the NIOSH design. The farmer group was of the opinion that the AutoROPS deployment is more effective than the manual ROPS alternative ( p<0.0001) and that the protection effectiveness provided by AutoROPS will be superior to the protection provided by manual ROPS ( p<0.01). Of great prevention importance was the increase in interest in purchasing a tractor with an AutoROPS compared to purchasing a tractor with manual ROPS ( p<0.0001). This result indicates that this new technology may successfully achieve wide use on the farm. Farmer opinions indicate the need for further design work to improve seating restraint and the method for lowering the structure. Based on the results of this study, NIOSH will be able to make recommendations to companies interested in developing and manufacturing an AutoROPS for the farm workplace.

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