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Agricultural production one of Indiana's most hazardous occupations

September 24, 2019
Farmer drives implement down narrow road.

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.

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