|TABLE OF CONTENTS|
|2||More Repairs and Upgrades|
|3||Serious Engine Work|
|4||To ROPS or Not To ROPS|
Tractor rollovers are the single deadliest type of injury incident on farms in the United States.
A ROllover Protective Structure, (ROPS)
is a cab or roll bar that provides a safe zone for the tractor operator if the tractor should roll over.
A Falling Object Protective Structure, (FOPS)
is a cab, roof, or screen that protects the operator from branches, rocks, and other falling objects.
From around 1967 to 1985 U.S. tractor manufacturers did offer ROPS as an option. Farmers generally did not want to pay whatever the option cost. The OSHA regulations most often mentioned, have never applied to tractor manufacturers or individual farmers. The actual OSHA regulation requires that agricultural tractors over 20 horsepower manufactured after October 25, 1976 meet the following requirements: A ROPS must be provided on each tractor operated by an employee. In addition, OSHA regulations were only enforced for farms with 11 or more employees. Even today, there are no laws or regulations that specifically require tractor manufacturers or small farms with fewer than 11 employees to provide ROPS. Beginning in 1985, U.S. tractor manufacturers began voluntarily including ROPS on all farm tractors over 20 horsepower. Most of our antique tractors were built before ROPS were even offered as an option. Most antique tractors have not become museum pieces, these tractors continue to be used for work.
Even though not specifically required by law, it is a good idea to add ROPS to any working tractor. It may also make sense to add FOPS if you frequently work where the tractor may cause trees, branches, rocks, and other things to fall. Unfortunately most of the tractors that certainly should have been fitted with ROPS remain completely unprotected today. This is mostly because farmers have been strongly discouraged from building their own, and the certified ROPS are much more expensive than most farmers will spend for something they could knock-together out of scrap for nothing.
A certified ROPS must be designed and tested for a specific model of tractor, and must be properly installed with the correct hardware. The engineering that goes into any certified ROPS is not obvious. The ROPS must flex to some extent, so welds and hardware do not break. While flexing, a ROPS must still provide a protected zone for the operator. Buying a used ROPS and installing it is not recommended, unless the used ROPS was taken from the exact same model of tractor, and it is properly installed with the correct hardware. The best place to get a certified ROPS is from the dealer that still provides parts and maintenance for your tractor. A few states do have incentives that will pay 70% or more of the cost to add certified ROPS to your tractor. Do the research and see what may apply in your case. Virginia has no incentive program for retrofit ROPS. Complaining to the local New Holland dealer about their $1200 price for a new or used ROPS does no good. They want you to buy a new tractor.
The main problem with building a custom ROPS is liability. Lawyers will flock like vultures to an incident with an uncertified ROPS. Some owners have built "sunshade" support structures based on factory ROPS designs that certainly appear strong enough to provide more than just protection from sunburn. There are more than a few homemade cabs and structures that would likely be worse than nothing in a rollover. A few people have built the Cost-effective ROllover Protective Structure from plans published by The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). CROPS. Unfortunately, the NIOSH bolt-together CROPS design is much more complicated than any factory ROPS, still requires welding, and also requires use of shop equipment that can bend 1/2" steel plate. Many people see the NIOSH design as a step in the right direction, but an absolutely horrible design. Based on the current choices available, the best option to add certified ROPS to my 2N, 8N, or Ford 3000 tractor is to get a factory-built ROPS, and make certain it is installed correctly. Expect to pay around $1000 for a cretified ROPS. There, based on current laws, and the number of ambulance chasers being added to the population each year, that is my official recommendation regarding ROPS.
Folding is fairly standard these days for just about anything that has a ROPS, FOPS, or sunshade. The tractor still needs to go under tree limbs and fit thru the barn doors. A folding structure is more complicated to build, and does add cost. At this time there is no folding ROPS being offered for most of the antique tractors in use.
Call it what you want, but there are many homemade sunshades out there that could easily out-perform any certified ROPS. A certified ROPS can create a false sense of security. The standards a certified ROPS must meet were developed by committee. A certified ROPS will not protect the operator in every type of rollover. It is entirely possible to roll any tractor in a way that exceeds the forces the certified ROPS has been tested to. The ROPS standards and test methods are a compromise that the various authors managed to agree would be sufficient for most rollover incidents they considered. No doubt some formula of cost vs benefit was used to determine that whacking a ROPS with a 4,410 pound pendulum weight was the proper test every certified ROPS has to meet. The vast majority of rollovers may apply forces to the ROPS in directions other than directly from the rear or sides. Those rollover forces could easily be more than 4,410 pounds.
ROPS structures are prototype tested. They do not test every ROPS a manufacturer makes. Just because the design was tested, is little assurance that the one you have on your tractor would pass the same test. It is often claimed that factory welds are done by professionals, and should be better than farmer welds. Sorry, but I've seen the professional welding on some certified ROPS structures. The definition of "professional" only means a person was paid to do the work. The only assurance we get with professional work is that the professional was paid. Sloppy/incomplete welding is becoming more common, not less. I've spent most of my life rejecting and redoing work that was done by professionals. Plans are available on-line that can be used to build a sunshade structure much stronger than necessary for certified ROPS.
People who are not structural engineers usually tend to overbuild everything they touch. Time is not a factor for backyard or barnyard craftsmen. They will happily do-over as many times as it takes to do a good job. A strong ROPS structure must have a stronger attachment to the tractor. It does no good to have a super-strong structure with weak attachments. Structural engineering is not an uncommon specialty. It is not too difficult to find a structural engineer, who will look at the sunshade you want to build, and recommend materials and hardware that will withstand any conceivable rollover. My welds may not always be pretty, but they have been tested in the real world.
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