Agriculture News

September 19, 2019

Agricultural production one of Indiana's most hazardous occupations

farm implement Purdue University’s Agriculture Safety and Health Program released the annual Indiana Farm Fatality Summary with Historical Overview coinciding with National Farm Safety and Health Week. (Purdue University photo) Download image

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University’s Agricultural Safety and Health Program released the annual Indiana Farm Fatality Summary with Historical Overview, coinciding with National Farm Safety and Health Week, which has been observed the third week of September since 1944. The program reported 34 work-related, on-farm deaths in the state in 2018.

Since data collection began in 1970, annual fatalities have been on the decline, averaging 27.2 over the past ten years. The average age of documented 2018 victims was 48.6 years with four being under the age of 18, and 16 people being age 60 or older.

“The fatality data continues to show a general downward trend that parallels the decline in the number of farm operations, which has likely contributed more to the reduction in farm-related fatalities than any other single factor,” the report states.

“While it is encouraging that the overall work-related on-farm deaths continues to decline, this report emphasizes that farm safety is still a relevant issue and corroborates with the Indiana Department of Labor that classified agriculture as one of Indiana’s most hazardous occupations,” said Bill Field, a Purdue professor of agriculture and biological engineering and Extension safety specialist.

Of the total number of fatalities, 44% were tractor-related incidents, representing the fourth-highest annual number for the past 25 years.

“The industry has seen a bloom of small farms, possibly resulting in more tractor related accidents,” Field said. “Small farms often use older, less safe machinery and are exposed to more hazards compared to larger operations using newer machinery with advanced safety precautions.”

As many prepare for a possibly challenging harvest, Field cautions farmers to have realistic expectations for the machinery and people working in the fields. He also warned of a higher potential for grain entrapment this year as farmers remove crop from storage that may have been too wet to store properly last harvest.

The program has monitored farm-related fatalities in Indiana for nearly 60 years using sources including news reports, web searches, personal interviews and voluntary reporting from extension educators and individuals.

The full report is available at: www.inprepared.org.

Writer: Abby Leeds, 765-494-7817, mayer36@purdue.edu 

Sources: Bill Field, 765-494-1191, field@purdue.edu

Edward Sheldon, ejsheldo@purdue.edu


ABSTRACT

2018 Indiana Farm Fatality Summary with Historical Overview 

Compiled by the Purdue University Agricultural Safety and Health Program 

Purdue University’s Agricultural Safety and Health Program has been monitoring farm-related fatalities in Indiana for nearly 60 years. The earliest identified summary of cases, published in 1966, examined 76 fatalities reported during 1963. Purdue’s fatality database, though acknowledged as not being comprehensive of all farm-related deaths, provides a unique capacity to explore trends that have occurred over several decades, during which time agricultural production experienced considerable transformation in technology and practices. Analysis of only recent fatality data, for example, fails to recognize that during the 1940’s and early 1950’s the leading identifiable cause of death was livestock, primarily horses and bulls. These animal-related causes of injury and death largely have been replaced, at a much lower frequency, with tractors and machinery. The fatality data continues to show a general downward trend that parallels the decline in the number of farm operations, which has likely contributed more to the reduction in farm-related fatalities than any other single factor.


Agricultural Communications: 765-494-8415;

Maureen Manier, Department Head, mmanier@purdue.edu  

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