There were fewer reports of Indiana farm-related deaths in 2011 than the previous year, including none involving children for the first time in 13 years, according to a new Purdue University report.
The Indiana Farm Fatality Summary reports that 16 people died in farm-related incidents in 2011, down from 23 in 2010. The number of farm-related fatalities represents about 13 percent of the 122 fatal work injuries documented in Indiana last year.
While less than 1 percent of Indiana’s workforce is employed in production agriculture, the industry has traditionally been responsible for the highest number of work-related fatalities in the state.
The report also says that for the first time since 1998, there were no reports of anyone under the age of 18 being killed in Indiana during farming activities.
Bill Field, Purdue Extension safety specialist, said while it’s good that there’s a declining number of farm fatalities, farmers should still practice preventative safety.
“We’re moving in the right direction, but every one of these incidents is preventable,” Field said. “We shouldn’t just accept this as something no one can do anything about.”
The study cites several reasons for the decline in farm-related fatalities, including advancements in the safety, productivity and efficiency of agricultural technology, the decline in the portion of the population required to work the land and efforts to educate farmers and agricultural workers about work-related threats.
Field thinks the increasing number of equipment upgrades from older machinery has helped lower the number of farm-related injuries and fatalities in recent years.
“We’re seeing a retirement of older machinery. Today’s farming units are safer, have better technology, are better guarded and run better overall. Older equipment is being salvaged because of the high price of steel and iron,” Field said.
Tractors remained the most significant agent of injury, accounting for 38 percent of reported fatalities.
Field recommended that those in the agriculture industry continue to place importance on safety, especially when transporting equipment on highways, working around grain storage facilities and allowing children in the workplace.
He estimated there were nearly 7,000 farm-related injuries in Indiana in 2011, although not that many incidents were reported. Non-fatal incidents are not well documented by any source, but the few reports that were received were severe and involved extended hospital stays.
“From a productivity perspective, these incidents can cost quite a bit of money, and farmers are usually not well insured and have high deductibles. The economic impact for farmers in Indiana is in the millions of dollars. Just a visit to the emergency room can be very expensive,” Field said.
For more information on safety in agriculture, visit http://www.farmsafety.org