Sep 22, 2021Importance of farm safety stressed in Indiana farm fatality summary
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.
The annual observance has been the third week of September since 1944. The Agricultural Safety and Health Program reported 25 work-related on-farm deaths in the state of Indiana in 2020, including one grain entrapment, nine involving tractors and four involving off-road or utility terrain vehicles.
Farm fatalities for the past 50 years continue to trend lower, likely reflecting safer machinery and work practices while also corresponding with a decline in the number of farmers. Despite this encouraging trend, report members urge agriculture workers to remain diligent and follow safety procedures. No Indiana agency documents farm-related nonfatal injuries, but prior research has indicated that approximately one in nine Indiana farms has a farm-work-related injury incident that requires medical attention each year.
Documented incidents involving those age 60 or older account for nearly half of all cases in the past five years, including over half of the victims in 2020.
“Historically, farmers over the age of 60, including many who work only part time, have accounted for a disproportionate number of farm-related injuries. Recent spikes in frequencies of fatalities over the past 10 years makes this population of older farmers a special concern,” the report states.
Bill Field, Purdue agriculture and biological engineering professor and Extension safety specialist, has summarized over 1,100 farm fatalities during his career.
“This annual summary is a somber reminder that our food can come at a cost of lives, health and well-being for farm families,” Field said.
As Hoosier farmers begin to harvest, program members remind farmers to keep safety a top priority. Agriculture safety guides, disaster preparedness resources and the Indiana Farm Fatality Summary can be found online.
– Abby Leeds, Purdue University
2020 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 historical perspective to explore trends that have occurred over several decades, during which time agricultural production experienced a considerable reduction in the number of farms and, a 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 injuries and deaths have largely been replaced, at a much lower frequency, with tractors and machinery.
The fatality data, as shown in this report, 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.
This is in light of the fact that Indiana farmers have become more productive than ever. The farm-related fatality rate, however, remains one of the highest of all Indiana occupations.