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Indiana farm fatalities up for the second consecutive year | Agriculture | Lafayette Online
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News | Agriculture

Indiana farm fatalities up for the second consecutive year

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The 2008 Indiana Farm Fatality Report, compiled by Purdue University’s Agricultural Safety and Health Program, documents 28 agricultural-related fatalities in 2008, up from 24 in 2007.

The most common mistakes resulting in farm-related fatalities include using older tractors without rollover protective structures on hillsides and being in too much of a hurry and not using safety devices or switches on equipment.

The most common mistakes resulting in farm-related fatalities include using older tractors without rollover protective structures on hillsides and being in too much of a hurry and not using safety devices or switches on equipment.

“The general trend for the previous 30 years had been that farm fatalities were on the decline,” said Gail Deboy, Purdue agricultural safety engineer and report coordinator. “This has not been the case for the last two years, and that’s extremely disheartening.”

The report, released Friday (Sept. 18) at the Indiana Farm Bureau headquarters in Indianapolis, coincides with the start of National Farm Safety and Health Week, Sept. 20-26. Deboy and Bill Field of Purdue’s Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering collected farm accident data and compiled the report, which is available online at http://cobweb.ecn.purdue.edu/~agsafety/IRSHC/fatalitySummary.html

The average age for farm work-related fatality victims in 2008 was 49.4, while the average age for the past 10 years was 52.6. The report documents two fatalities of males under the age of 18; their ages were 3 and 4. The two incidents involving children accounted for 7.1 percent of the total number of fatalities reported in 2008. Only one or two fatalities of children or adolescents under the age of 18 had been reported annually over the last 10 years, with the exception of 2000 when seven such fatalities were reported.

Victims 60 and older accounted for 39 percent of all documented cases, and that is consistent with a continuing trend of older individuals being involved in a disproportionate number of fatal incidents.

In the past, Howard and Fayette counties documented no fatalities in the previous 30 years, Deboy said. Fayette is now the only county not to have a recorded fatality.

The three Indiana counties with the most recorded fatalities during the last 30 years include Elkhart, LaGrange and Greene counties, which all have a large Amish population, Deboy said. This year LaGrange and Greene counties each reported one fatality.

“One thing not in the report is that in 2008 five of the 28 fatalities were caused by hydraulic failure or operator error in operating hydraulics,” Deboy said.

The most common mistakes resulting in farm-related fatalities include using older tractors without rollover protective structures on hillsides and being in too much of a hurry and not using safety devices or switches on equipment.

Eight deaths in 2008 were attributed to tractor rollovers, and five deaths were caused by machinery crushings or pinnings, according to the report.

“Most farmers don’t spend much time thinking about safety, and we hope this report helps create more of an awareness in the farming community, especially right before harvest,” Deboy said.

In the United States, there are 3.5 fatalities per 100,000 workers in all industries, according to statistics from the National Safety Council. There are 31.6 fatalities per 100,000 workers in agricultural production.

“With all the unpredictability of livestock and the sheer size of the equipment, farming is the most dangerous industry a person can be involved in, but farmers can take simple steps that go a long way to help protect themselves,” Deboy said.

Deboy recommends farmers take the following safety measures this fall:

  • Avoid working when tired. Farmers should take frequent breaks and get enough sleep.
  • Slow down and pay attention to details.
  • Keep all equipment shields in place. If a shield is removed to work on something, be sure to put it back on.
  • Use all safety locks and safety equipment. Don’t override safety locks thinking they will slow down productivity.
  • Use tractors with rollover protective structures.
  • Make sure the slow-moving vehicle emblem is visible and in good condition on all tractors and equipment.
  • Use hazard lights when operating tractors and equipment on roadways.

“The average reaction time for a person is three seconds,” Deboy said. “Tractor operators have less than three seconds to react from the time they realize they’re in a dangerous situation to when the tractor rolls over.”

For questions and more information about the report, contact Deboy at 765-496-2377, deboy@purdue.edu, or Field at 765-494-1191, field@purdue.edu

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