Farm fatalities were up again last year, according to the report released by Bill Field on behalf of the Indiana Farm Safety and Health Council last week. However, they are still much lower compared to three decades ago.
One thing that makes reducing fatalities tougher is that there are no clear-cut patterns on what causes fatalities on the farm. The only exceptions are tractor overturns, accounting fro about 25% of all farm fatalities in Indiana in '08.
"One way to combat it is you can get everyone to cooperate and engage in a massive educational effort," Field says. "We documented that working with the Amish a few years ago. Unfortunately, it's tougher to get a handle on how to draw a group of farmers together and get them to really concentrate on safety."
The Amish effort began after an unusually high number of Amish children were killed in farm accidents during one year. Steve Engleking, LaGrange County Extension ag educator, in the county where the number of deaths to children were higher that year, asked Bill Field to meet with the Amish community and devise a plan to educate the people, and hopefully reduce the number of deaths.
Field and his staff made a real effort to do so. But it was only possible because the leaders in the Amish community told the people to cooperate. They stressed to them that this was something that was very important, and that they should do. Field has been part of or partially responsible for some 25 one-day farm safety field days for Amish farmers over the past few years. Average attendance was 100 to1 20 people per meeting.
The best part is that the effort worked, Field notes. Deaths amongst the community due to farm fatalities has plummeted. One Amish woman was killed in '08 in an accident involving a wagon.
The other way to help reduce accidents is to prompt groups to do projects that help farmers stay aware of safety risks at key times during the season. Several county farm bureau groups, including Greene, Johnson and Shelby, have invested in billboards in their community over the past two years. These regular size billboards prompt drivers who aren't farmers to be extremely cautious and stay alert for farm vehicles traveling slowly, especially during planting and harvesting seasons.
"Our Pike County Young Farmer chapter takes out farm safety packs to farmers right in the field," says Lisa Chaudion, who is director of the Indiana Young Farmers Association. She is also president of the Indiana Farm Safety and Rural Health Council.
After Pike County began the effort, some other chapters in other parts of the state have picked up the idea, she notes. The packs include various things such as a bottle of water and maybe an apple- things that are all designed to help the farmer stay alert in the field.
Anything that you can do to help people remember to work safely, especially in key seasons, is useful, Field says.