The bad news from Bill field, Purdue University safety specialist, is that farm fatalities in Indiana crept back up again in '08, after bottoming at 8 fatalities in '06. It's the second straight year fatalities have been on the increase. Field released official numbers during a press conference at the Indiana Farm Bureau state headquarters in Indianapolis last week;
Last week marked the official observance of National Farm Safety Week. And the Indiana data shows, however, it's important to practice safety every day, not just during one week of the year.
National fatality statistics are based on estimates. Field says the numbers are a guess at best. The Indiana numbers, however, are firm. Field and his staff compile them based upon reports from clipping services and other information. They also cross-check them with information collected at the state level.
"The latest information at the national level says that fatalities in farming are 10 times more common than in industry as a whole," says Gail Deboy, also of Purdue. "For last year the national report listed agriculture as the number one most dangerous occupation in America, ahead of mining and construction."
The best news, perhaps, is that the 30-year trend is still toward far fewer farm fatalities than in the past, especially amongst children. "In 1977 a third of all deaths were children, many of them young children. Riding with dad on the tractor and becoming involved in some sort of accident was a major cause.
While there was no particular pattern to what caused an increase in fatalities last year, Field says tractor overturns remain the single most deadly action on the farm. About 25% of the deaths were due to overturns. Deboy says many times these were people riding older tractors that did not have Rollover Protective Structures (ROPS) installed.
Combine extra riders on tractors with tractor overturns, other tractor-related deaths and entanglements, and it accounts for about 75% of last year's farm fatalities, Field says. Grain bin entrapments get a lot of publicity because they nearly always result in death, but the number of people who die in grain bins each year is still far fewer than the number who die in tractor or implement-related mishaps.
Tractor roadway crash fatalities are also included in the newly-released data, as long as a tractor or farm implement was involved, Field notes. There was a trend toward increasing numbers of farmers dieing in these types of accidents, but it didn't really show up last year, he notes.
Indiana Farm Bureau stepped to the plate and campaigned hard to raise awareness for farmers traveling on roadways with equipment, and also started campaigns to educate the public about the hazards of traveling rule roads. A video was produced with Purdue, that has been widely shown to all types of audiences.
Through August of this year, the unofficial farm fatality total is 10 in Indiana. Deboy hope that number stays lower than the '08 number, That means people must be very attentive during harvest, An unusually high number of fatalities occurred in the fall last year.