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University of Iowa News Release

March 22, 2006

UI Ag Health Center Joins Initiative To Reduce Tractor Deaths, Injuries

The University of Iowa's Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health (GPCAH) is partnering with other university-based agricultural safety and health research centers across the United States to develop a national public health campaign for preventing deaths and injuries from tractor overturns and other tractor-related incidents.

The initiative, funded by a two-year grant from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, will help the centers fill current knowledge gaps and explore new techniques to promote safer tractor use, according to GPCAH director Wayne Sanderson, Ph.D., UI professor of occupational and environmental health. The center is based in the UI College of Public Health.

Tractor overturns, runovers, collisions and power-train entanglements are the leading cause of death and serious injury in U.S. agriculture. On average, more than 250 farmers, family members and farm employees die annually in such incidents, half of these occurring when a tractor overturns and crushes the operator. Although no official statistics are available, researchers estimate that 4.46 non-fatal injuries from overturns occur for every fatality. Non-fatal injuries often are severe and disabling.

Technological means, including rollover protective structures (ROPS), exist for preventing death and injury from overturns. When used with seatbelts, ROPS have proven effective at virtually eliminating fatalities and serious injuries. However, more than half of the approximately 4.7 million agricultural tractors in the United States lack ROPS.

Surveillance conducted by the Iowa Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) program found that Iowa experienced an average of 16.5 tractor-related fatalities per year between 1994 and 2003. Between 2003 and 2005, an average of 11 Iowans died each year in tractor overturn accidents.

"None of the tractors involved in these accidents had ROPS," Sanderson said. "The GPCAH is eager to work with the other centers to prevent these tragedies not only in our state, but nationwide."

Under this initiative, the centers will:

--Study the costs of injuries from farm tractor overturns and highway collisions and identify who bears those costs.

--Assess the impact of changes in ROPS standards, regulations and technology and their effect on future ROPS availability.

--Examine the acceptability of, and procedures for, financial incentives to retrofit tractors with ROPS.

--Create a database of potential partners to help guide the planned national campaign and launch an intranet to facilitate communication about tractor safety among the centers.

STORY SOURCE: The University of Iowa College of Public Health, Office of Communications, 4261 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242.

MEDIA CONTACT: Dan McMillan, 319-335-6835, daniel-mcmillan@uiowa.edu