The annual farm fatality summary has been released by Purdue University’s Agricultural Safety and Health Program during this National Farm Safety and Health Week. The report identifies 21 work-related on-farm deaths in Indiana during 2019. That is the fewest number of documented cases since 2013, but Dr. Bill Field at Purdue is frustrated that these incidents are not going away.
“We had a reduction last year but next year it might go back up,” he said. “It’s been very erratic over the last few years. It’s something that I think should be driven home on a regular basis that the number of farmers out there has decreased dramatically yet we still see a lot of loss of life and severe injuries, and we need to recognize that these are important people in our lives, their lives matter, and it’s something that we can do something about, and we ought to be doing it.”
Tractor rollovers continue to be a factor in fatality summaries, and Field tells HAT those are the number one issue throughout his 40 years in the business.
“They account for more fatalities than any other single activity a farmer does,” he said. “There is largely at this point a growing number of older farmers who are using equipment that in some cases is 40 and 50 years old without Rollover Protection Structures, using it for utility purposes like mowing ditch banks along the side of the road and then end up rolling over. There’s very little opportunity for someone to escape from one of those events.”
The report says a greater focus on the value of Rollover Protection Structures (ROPS,) especially on tractors used for mowing, could prove beneficial. The full report is available at www.inprepared.org.
Field adds the elements of both older equipment and the operators who have an attraction to that equipment, who many times are getting older themselves, are leading to a disproportionate level of fatalities.
Three of the 21 victims in 2019 were children under the age of 5 and eleven were 60 or older.