ROPS protection is an effective safeguard against tractor rollover

Safeguarding the Health of Your Family’s Farm


Post written by: Greg Kirkham

Many of the farm tractors manufactured today are equipped with seatbelts and a completely enclosed cab, providing critical protection from the leading cause of death on farms, tractor rollovers. As a result, Rollover Protective on Structures, or ROPS, has been a standard safety feature of virtually all farm tractors for many years.

Still, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates one half of all tractors in operation in the U.S. today are without rollover protection. This is mainly because of two reasons.

  • Continued use of older tractors. It wasn’t until 1985 that American tractor manufacturers began to voluntarily add ROPS to all farm tractors of more than 20 horsepower. Many farmers use their tractors for as long as 40 years, so there are still many unprotected models working the fields today. The good news is that ROPS can be retrofitted to these older tractors.
  • Voluntary ROPS removal. Until farmers get used to driving with ROPS and realize the structures don’t significantly reduce visibility or add to the complexity of driving, some operators unwisely remove the factory-installed device. Today’s ROPS have been engineered for driver convenience, making the practice of removing the ROPS unnecessary. For instance, foldable two-post ROPS allow farmers to lower the structure rather than removing it altogether in low clearance situations.

Think you’re too experienced a tractor operator to need a ROPS? Statistics show that experienced drivers are involved in 80 percent of all tractor rollovers. Here’s how a ROPS and seatbelt use can protect you and your loved ones. 

  • Injury avoidance. ROPS are designed and constructed to keep drivers safe during tractor rollovers. All structures must pass a battery of tests to assure adequate performance and driver protection and meet standards set by the Society of Automotive Engineers. Seatbelt use with a ROPS prevents the driver from being tossed around inside the cab in the event of an accident.
  • Financial protection. What would it cost your loved ones to care for the family farm if you or another working family member were seriously injured in a rollover in equipment without a ROPS? And if an employee is killed or injured, the lawsuits, attorney fees and rising workers’ compensation premiums could put you out of business. ROPS don’t just protect personal safety — they safeguard the health of the family farm.
  • Emotional security. It’s not all about the money. Serious injury or death caused by a lack of basic and easily obtained protection would seriously impact the emotional well-being of surviving family members.

Rollover protection is a serious issue. That’s why I recommend taking the easy step of using your tractor’s ROPS.

How to protect your workers and your business

Author: David H. Ruppel, CIC, CRM | Western Region Leader, Agribusiness

EquipmentGuardsFarming is one of the top 10 most dangerous occupations in America, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Farm-related injuries are often a result of long hours and close, consistent contact with heavy machinery and equipment.

These facts are no surprise to those in the farming profession and why it’s so important for all vehicles and equipment to be properly guarded. The safety of you and your workers depends on it. An unsafe work environment can lead to fines, lawsuits, workers’ compensation claims and rising insurance premiums.

That’s why virtually all of today’s farming vehicle and equipment manufacturers provide lockouts, tagouts and other types of guard devices to protect workers from injury. Some industry accepted best practices for machine guarding, include these rules and routines to help improve the operational safety of your farm.

  • Never remove guard equipment. Factory installed guards are standard on nearly all of today’s farm vehicles and equipment. They should never be removed!
  • Improvise only if factory-installed guards are unavailable. If you bought used equipment or haven’t upgraded for quite some time, you might not have modern guards. Only then should you consider improvising a solution, as that is better than leaving your machinery unguarded.
  • Train your farm workers in proper practices. Untrained workers can make serious mistakes if they don’t understand proper operation or maintenance practices. Make sure everyone who works for you is trained and regularly tested on the proper method to use and repair all potentially dangerous equipment.
  • Provide a safety checklist. Chronicle all of your vehicles and equipment and the actions that should be taken and avoided to maintain a safe and injury-free work environment. Then post your document in conspicuous places and in all languages spoken at your site.
  • Introduce an accountability program for supervisors. Your insurance adviser can help you launch a program for incentivizing supervisors to keep workers protected, with disincentives for ignoring safety issues.

For additional information on property machine guarding techniques, please reference the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) standards for agriculture at

Adding extra revenue streams to your farm

Post written by: Carrie Busic

Running a farm comes with more than its fair share of challenges — weather, energy costs and price volatility all contribute to uncertainty when it comes to revenue. One thing that farmers can do to help offset some of this risk is to add other revenue streams, such as “agritainment” — turning your farm into an entertaining venue for nonfarmers to visit with their families.

The type of venue you create will be based partially on the types of crops you raise. For example, cornfields turn into corn mazes, perhaps paired with pumpkin patches or hayrides, depending on the time of the year. This is a basic option that, with a little promotion, can draw in a fair number of visitors during what might traditionally be a slow time on the farm, generating needed revenue.

Some farmers take it a step further, hosting a petting zoo or bounce houses, creating a more carnival-like atmosphere, complete with pony rides or games.

These events not only provide revenue, they also provide a great opportunity to teach others about the farming lifestyle. Tours of fields, equipment displays and lectures about how the farm operates teach nonfarmers about the source of their food and why farming is important, and also give farmers a chance to share pointers on how to pick out the best produce at the local market. Educational events also help the public understand why spreading manure may smell bad for a short time but yields a better crop for the family’s dinner table.

Once the public is on the farm, this is a great time to present them with fresh produce from your farm, selling direct to the customer. Whether it’s a pick-your-own operation or a small stand set up near the entertainment, don’t miss out on the chance to sell your goods fresh from the field.

With opportunity, however, comes risk that needs to be properly managed. Visitors to your farm could range from a few dozen to even a thousand or more, so you need to be prepared for the additional risks.

  • Slips-and-falls is an area that needs addressed, as is equipment safety.
  • That old trailer is great for dragging around bales of hay, but when it’s full of people and the axle breaks, you may end up with more than a minor inconvenience on your hands.
  • Even something as simple as a parked car sitting on top of dry cornstalks could lead to a fire, which may result in property damage and lawsuits.

So whether you are already promoting your farm as agritainment, or thinking about doing so, get an insurance agent out to your property to assess the risks involved to make sure you are covered. He or she can help you game plan for your event and mitigate the risks involved, so you can focus on the rewards.


Don’t let heavy snow loads lead to roof collapse
Record snowfall across   the U.S. is increasing the danger of roof collapse and damage for   homeowners, businesses and institutions alike. But did you know that even   non-record levels of snowfall can lead to costly structural or water damage?   Even a small to moderate amount of drifting snow can unbalance a roof,   leading to localized loading, which can cause partial or total collapse.   Another potential hazard is plugged roof drains and gutters, which can lead   to large amounts of standing water, leaks and freezing damage.

While the temperatures are low,   the weight and density of the snow are relatively low. This is the typical   fluffy snow which can fool us into thinking that we are not at risk for   damage or collapse. But that same snow can act as a sponge when temperatures   increase or when heavier, wetter snow and/or rain falls. The weight captured   on a roof can increase tenfold-and the risk of collapse increases as well.

The following are some tips to   consider in the prevention of roof collapse or damage from snow and ice:

  •  Know the weight your roof can support. Enlist a structural engineer to assess the weight that your buildings can support and determine if any improvements are needed to prevent a future collapse. You can find weight guidelines published by IIBHS here.
  • Regularly inspect the roof and structure (inside and out) for any damage, cracks or corrosion. If you see signs of damage, contact a qualified builder/roofer to assess the extent of damage and make repairs as soon as possible.
  • Inspect  all roof drains and gutters for debris. Ice accumulation along the eave can contribute to roof collapse. Keep drains and gutters clear of leaves and other debris as a rule.
  • Know your risk. Some roofs have characteristics that are at a higher risk for collapse, including large, flat roofs with less than a 30º slope; roofs with heavy insulation; roofs that have had previous structural damage or stress; and roofs with shaded areas where snow sits longer and freezes into ice. Also, wood bowstring truss roofs are historically prone to collapse because of truss deterioration where it meets the wall.
  • Remove snow from roofs as quickly as possible after snowfall. Consider hiring a contractor who understands the safety measures to take and owns the proper equipment. If you do decide to have your employees remove snow, make sure they have proper training and equipment.




Safety Lessons Learned

Last year, no less than 19 grain entrapments occurred in the United States, according to research compiled by Purdue University’s Agricultural Safety and Health Program, which documents confined space incidents in agriculture.

While down from 2011, and significantly down from 2010’s all-time high of 57, the occurrence of these incidents still leaves room for education on safety and techniques for prevention.

Early last month, a number of Westfield Insurance Risk Control Unit and Commercial Agribusiness/Farm Division employees gathered at the University of Akron campus in Medina County, Ohio to bring greater awareness to the common hazards associated with grain bin structures.

Below, we outline their top three takeaways from the training session to arm you with the information your workers need to stay safe on site and around grain bins.

Where Has All The Water Gone?

Drought Tips

Even with all the rain early this year, we should all be prepared for the dog days of summer and the potential for drought.

Establishing a drought plan before drought conditions are present could help lessen the effects of drought; however, there are many ways to mitigate the effects if a plan was not previously established.

  • Make sure your irrigation system is working efficiently and effectively, and prioritize watering; sensitive plants/crops should have priority over turf because turf is cheaper to replace.
  • Keep weeds under control because they absorb water that could be used for other plants, and add mulch to aid in water retention.
  • Fertilize with a low nitrogen formula or, if possible, do not use fertilizer.
  • Protect your livestock (and pets) from the heat by providing shade, ventilation, and an adequate water supply.
  • Test drought damaged crops and livestock water sources for nitrates to avoid nitrate poisoning.
  • Utilize available assistance, especially in those areas that are declared to be natural disasters.

Its Harvest time—Corn, Cotton, Soybeans, and…Grapes?

Around this time of year, the weather starts to change slightly—the mornings are crisper and the evenings require a light jacket. This weather change coincides with farmers harvesting many of the major crops such as corn, cotton, and soybeans. Many people do not realize, however, that this is also harvest time for grapes.

Why is Harvesting Time Important?                                              

Harvesting is a critical step in the winemaking process because harvesting the grape too soon or too late can drastically change the taste of the wine produced. Some growers base harvest time on the taste of the grape, many others use equipment that tests the sugar content and other characteristics, and some growers use a combination of both methods. If the harvest occurs too early, the flavors have not had a chance to fully mature, and if the harvest does not happen soon enough the grapes may be overripe and create unbalanced wine.

The growers also must know what type of wine will be made from their grapes because harvest time affects the sugar content and acidity level of the grape and each wine has a desired level of these characteristics as well as the tannins. For example, grapes used for dessert wines need to have a higher sugar content, so they are left on the vine longer than other varietals, and grapes used for ice wines are usually left on the vines even longer making them the last ones to be harvested.

Weather conditions are extremely important to harvest time because an extreme change in weather, such as an early frost or late heat wave, can drastically alter the taste of the grapes. Storms are also critical to harvesting because a heavy rain, wind, or hail storms could destroy a year’s crop.


We now have a SMARTPHONE APP available to you. It has instructions in the case of an accident. You can phone or email your agent. It has all the contact numbers for Claims and Billing in the case of emergency. To download either open your browser on the phone or go to and email yourself a link.

Insurers face big agriculture losses

Drought damage to U.S. corn, soybean crops causing bulk of claims.

Javier Blas and Alistair Gray, The Financial Times | Aug. 26, 2012

The insurance industry faces its biggest ever loss in agriculture as the worst drought to hit the US in more than half a century devastates the country’s multibillion-dollar corn and soybean crops, triggering large claims.

Insurance companies providing so-called crop protection will recoup part of their loss, nonetheless, as the US federal government reinsures some of their risk, on top of subsidising the premiums that farmers pay to private companies.

Agricultural economists at the University of Illinois estimate the drought will trigger this year gross indemnities of roughly $30bn, with an underwriting loss of $18bn.

Crisis Management – On The Farm (Part 1)

A crisis can happen at any moment. On July 3, a lawn care company had a customer appreciation picnic. Days later, more than 75 people became ill from E. coli.  As we can see from this incident, anyone can experience an agriculture related crisis. From farmers producing the food, to companies selling products or even consumers providing food during an event everyone has the potential to be effected. Whether the cause is weather or contamination, undercover videos or activist organizations, or other causes, steps can be taken to prepare for, manage and recover from a crisis.

The first step in preventing a crisis is to prepare for one. Begin by examining your company and assessing (and accepting) your real risks. In what areas could you potentially experience a crisis? What is the media saying that could possibly affect your business?  Even if you are not currently facing a crisis, be on the lookout for one by monitoring the media, the industry, competitors, etc. During this time contact your insurance agency. Not only can your agent help you to determine what coverage would be most appropriate, but they may be able to help identify your potential exposures. Working with your agent can save you money in the event of a crisis.

Next, pull together your core group and form a crisis planning team. This team should be comprised of leaders in the production, purchasing, sales, marketing, quality control, safety, transportation, legal and communications areas. Whether you have one or nine people responsible for these areas, it is important to identify the leaders and their specific roles in the event of a crisis. As a team, prepare and develop a crisis response plan. During this time, take the time to document your current policies and procedures. Having information readily available on manufacturing practices, pesticides used, how the product is labeled for shipping, communication techniques, etc. will save you time later.

After establishing your team and organizing your information, designate one member as the media contact. This person should feel confident with public speaking and be knowledgeable about the entire operation; they will be the sole communicator with the media. Whether it is the local newspaper or a national television station, you want to give consistent and honest statements throughout the crisis.

Before a crisis occurs, it can be beneficial to determine allies. These partners can be expert famers, commodity groups and industry supporters who can help you survive the crisis. In Part II, we will show you what to do during and after a crisis.

What steps do you take to prepare for a crisis? We would love to hear from you!  Please share your comments.

 This post was written by Katie Hozan, an intern working in our Claims Department of Westfield Insurance this summer. Katie is a senior majoring in communications and public relations at Ohio Northern University.