Updated July 2008

Backwards rollovers most frequently occur when a tractor or agricultural machine is used to tow a vehicle, implement, or other heavy load. In several of the backwards rollover fatalities documented by CAIR, an operator attached a tow chain beneath a tractor’s seat rather than at the level of its draw pin. Because of a tractor’s high center of gravity, towing any object or vehicle can easily lead to a backwards rollover. Common scenarios include using a tractor to haul trees cut for firewood, or attempting to tow a disabled vehicle out of a ditch. When a backwards rollover occurs, the machine quickly flips on top of the operator, who is often crushed to death.

In the fifteen years from 1990-2004, 105 people were killed in backwards rollover events (29.9% of all rollover fatalities). 91.4% of the machines involved in fatal backwards rollovers were tractors and 6.7% were off road vehicles. Between April 1990 and March 2000, there were 41 backwards rollover-related hospitalizations.

To avoid backwards rollovers, operators should adhere to manufacturers’ recommendations concerning maximum towing capacity. Also, towropes or chains should not be attached beneath the seat or anywhere above the level of the draw pin.

Rollover protection structures (ROPS), when combined with seatbelt use, are designed to prevent the operator from being crushed during a rollover event. Use of ROPS and seatbelts by all tractor operators would help prevent backwards rollover fatalities.

Most tractors and other agricultural machines are not designed to seat passengers. Extra riders of any age should not be allowed on agricultural machines unless there are additional manufacturer-designed passenger workstations or seats. If passengers are not safely seated, they are very likely to be killed or injured seriously in a rollover event, even if the machine has ROPS. Riders of off road vehicles should wear CSA approved helmets to avoid serious head injuries in the event of a rollover.

Kathy Belton, Co-Director of The Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting, emphasizes the importance of caution when using tractors to pull loads, “It is critical to make sure that the weight of the load being drawn by the tractor does not exceed its manufacturer’s recommendations. Towing loads that are too heavy for a tractor can result in serious injury or death due to a backwards rollover.”

This information is derived from data collected and analyzed by Canadian Agricultural Injury Surveillance Program collaborators and staff. CAIR is funded by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and managed in cooperation with the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association.

For more information contact:
Dr. Rob Brison (via Deb Emerton),
The Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting,
Department of Emergency Medicine, Queen’s University
Kingston, Ontario K7L 2V7
Tel: (613) 548-2389 Fax (613) 548-1381
Email: CAIR@kgh.kari.net www.CAIR.ca