Date: 9 May 1997
Subject: Farmer Killed when Tractor Overturns on Embankment
A 44-year-old cattle farmer was killed when the tricycle tractor
he was operating overturned. As was his usual practice, the victim
had backed the tractor out of the shed near his home, turned to
the right and was driving forward, down the embankment to the
road which led to the highway. His cattle barn and pasture were
located a short distance from his house (1-2 miles), and he regularly
drove the tractor there to tend the cattle. On this day, however,
the tractor flipped as he came over the embankment, rolling onto
the victim. He died at the scene. In order to prevent similar
fatalities, the FACE investigator recommends:
On March 9, 1997, a 44-year-old male was killed when he was crushed
in a tractor rollover incident. KY FACE was notified of the incident
on March 10 and an investigation was initiated. A FACE investigator
traveled to the site of the incident on March 19, 1997. An interview
was conducted with the county coroner who handled the case. Photographs
of the scene and the equipment involved in the incident were made,
as well as measurements of the area. A copy of the death certificate
The victim in this case was a 44-year-old male who had been a
full-time cattle farmer and a respected member of his community.
He was in good health, and did not have a history of prior injury
The tractor was an IH Farmall Model M tricycle, manufactured between
1939 and 1952. The four-cylinder engine was gasoline powered.
The tractor was not equipped with a rollover protective structure
(ROPS) or a seatbelt. There were no front-end counterweights.
The rear tires were about two-thirds fluid-filled. Weight of the
tractor was more than 5000 pounds.
The victim was proud of his restored tractor. He kept it inside
a shed at his home, and regularly drove it the 1-2 miles down
the highway to the barn and pasture where his cattle were kept.
On the day of the incident, the weather was clear and cool. The
ground was damp from recent rain, but not muddy. The area in front
of the shed and the embankment were mostly packed dirt, with some
small patches of grass and scattered dead leaves. The victim backed
the tractor out of the shed and turned to the right, toward the
six-foot embankment which led to the private road. The slope of
the embankment was approximately 15 degrees. As he started down,
he again turned the tractor to the right, angling toward the private
road which would lead him to the highway. When he did so, the
tractor rolled over, crushing the victim. His wife, who was in
the house, discovered him beside the tractor and called out to
a neighbor for help. (There was no telephone in the victim's home.)
The neighbor was an emergency medical services (EMS) worker who
had a two-way radio; he called the local EMS office, and workers
were on the scene within minutes. They found no vital signs, however,
and placed a call to the coroner, who estimated the time of death
at 11:50 a.m.
CAUSE OF DEATH
The cause of death as listed on the death certificate was "massive
trauma/crushing to the head, fractures of skull and neck vertebrae."
No autopsy was performed.
Recommendation #1: Older tractors should be retrofitted
with rollover protective structures (ROPS) and seatbelts.
Discussion: In this case, the IH Farmall Model M tractor
was manufactured between 1939 and 1952; a commercial ROPS kit
is available for it from Saf-T-Cab for approximately $1192.00.
ROPS and seatbelts protect a tractor operator by creating a "zone
of protection." Whenever possible, operators should reserve
the use of non-ROPS-equipped tractors for safer work areas and/or
activities. Since 1985, as a result of voluntary agreements among
tractor manufacturers, virtually all new tractors sold in the
US have been equipped with ROPS and seatbelts. Many tractor manufacturers
are currently offering ROPS retrofit kits at cost to encourage
owners of non-ROPS-equipped tractors to have them installed.
Recommendation #2: Front-end counterweights should be used
to improve traction and stability.
Discussion: Counterweights can improve tractor stability,
and are particularly important on tricycle-type tractors. While
it is not possible to say that they would have prevented a rollover
in this case, they are always worthwhile safeguards.
Recommendation #3: Tractor operators should take terrain
into consideration when performing any operation, and make adjustments
as necessary to accommodate to it.
Discussion: In this case, the victim had driven the tractor
over the embankment numerous times in the past without incident.
However, a tricycle tractor is more dangerous to operate on a
slope and when turning than a tractor with widely spaced front
wheels, and on this occasion the tractor overturned.