Date: 28 November 1994
Subject: Retiree is Killed When Tractor Overturns
A 61-year-old retiree was crushed to death when the tractor he
was operating turned over on him. At 4:30 pm, the victim was bush-hogging
a pasture on his farm, driving a tractor pulling a five-foot-wide,
three-point hitch rotary bush-hog. The tractor was not equipped
with a Roll Over Protective Structure (ROPS) or a seat belt. Mowing
the outer perimeter of the pasture, the victim was on the first
pass outlining the field. An eroded ravine forced the victim to
go up the hill along the edge of the rose-briar-filled 18-foot-wide
ditch. The left front and rear tractor wheels began sliding into
the ravine, causing the victim to lose control. As the tractor
continued over the edge, it rolled over into the ditch and onto
the victim. The victim was pinned between the tire, fender and
tractor seat. He was discovered at 7:15 pm by his brother-in-law,
and pronounced dead at 8:55 pm by the deputy coroner.
In order to prevent similar occurrences in the future, the FACE
investigator concluded that:
Additionally, county officials should initiate a 911 emergency
On 7 October 1994, a 61-year-old male retiree was killed while
operating farm equipment. On October 10, the FACE investigator
read of the incident in the newspaper. An investigation was immediately
initiated. The FACE investigator traveled to the scene on November
2, 1994, and again on November 9 to continue the investigation.
The deputy coroner who handled the case was interviewed and accompanied
the investigator to the scene. Photographs and measurements were
taken while the deputy coroner described the circumstances following
the incident. The coroner's report, toxicology report, and police
report were obtained. Interviews were conducted with emergency
medical service (EMS) personnel and the victim's brother-in-law.
An equipment sales representative was interviewed by phone.
In 1987 the victim retired from a major communications company
in the Chicago area, where he had worked as an engineer in research
and development. In 1990 he married a woman who owned the 150-acre
western Kentucky farm where the incident occurred. The victim
and his wife lived in town; tenant farmers were responsible for
the day-to-day maintenance of the property, which was leased out
as pasture for cattle. The victim's level of training and experience
on the equipment was minimal, according to his brother-in-law.
His health was reasonably good after suffering a stroke some years
ago. Prior injury history is not known.
The victim was a 61-year-old male, in fair health. He was 6'1"
tall, and weighed approximately 200 pounds. After retirement from
his career in the communications industry, he had purchased this
farm about three years prior to the incident. On the afternoon
of the incident he was "laying out the land" - bush-hogging
around the perimeter of a particular area. He was last seen about
1:00 pm as he drove the tractor toward the pasture.
The tractor, manufactured in the mid-1970s, was a Massey-Ferguson
135 equipped with a three-point hitch bush-hog. It was not equipped
with a ROPS or a seat belt. It was in good condition for a tractor
of this age.
Since there were no witnesses to this incident, the events leading
up to it were reconstructed on the basis of evidence at the scene.
It appeared that the victim was attempting to cut an area of pasture
parallel to a steep ravine, when a rear tire of the tractor sank
into loose soil, causing the tractor to overturn and pin him underneath
it. He was found by his brother-in-law at approximately 7:15 pm,
and was pronounced dead by the deputy coroner at 8:55 pm; time
of death was estimated to be 6:45 pm.
CAUSE OF DEATH
The deputy coroner listed the cause of death as severe head and
Recommendation #1: Tractor owners and operators should
contact their county extension agent, local equipment dealer or
equipment manufacturer to see if retro-fit rollover protection
and operator restraint systems are available for their equipment.
Discussion #1: The tractor in this incident, manufactured
in the mid-1970s, was not equipped with a ROPS or an operator
restraint system, which protect the operator in the event of a
rollover. ROPS first became available as optional equipment on
farm tractors in 1971. These safety features were not required
on tractors until 1976, when OSHA Standard 29CFR 1928.51 went
into effect. This standard required employers to provide ROPS
and seat belts for all employee-operated tractors manufactured
after October 25, 1976. However, this standard does not apply
to family farms or farms employing fewer than 11 employees. Since
1985, as a result of voluntary agreements by tractor manufacturers,
all new tractors sold in the US have been equipped with ROPS and
seat belts (MMWR Jan.29, 1993). For this 1970s-model tractor,
retro-fit ROPS and operator restraint systems are available. Tractor
owners should contact dealers, manufacturers or county extension
agents for information on sources of retro-fit ROPS and operator
Recommendation #1: Safety professionals should offer training
for parttime farmers.
Discussion #1: Owner-operators should be offered safety
courses and materials to identify hazards, evaluate risks, and
develop safe operating procedures. The information should be easily
accessible to operators. This is an avenue by which county extension
agents could be effective in intervention and prevention. New
farmers and part-time farmers, especially, should be targeted
to receive this information. Listings of new farmers could be
derived from property transfer data available in county clerks'
Additionally, although it would not have made a difference in
this case, since 911 telephone service is universally recognized
by the public as the number to call in the event of an emergency,
it should be implemented countywide.
Effectiveness of Roll Over Protective Structures for Preventing Injuries Associated with Agricultural Tractors. MMWR 42(03); 57-59.
National Safety Council (1978). "Tractor Operation and Roll-Over Protective Structures." Occupational Safety & Health Data Sheets. I-622-Reaf. 85.
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Jan 29,
1993). "NIOSH Reports on the Preventability of Tractor Rollovers."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. DHHS (NIOSH) publication