Eighteen farm-related fatalities were documented in Indiana in 2013, down from 26 the previous year and reflecting a trend of fewer deadly accidents on the farm, a Purdue University report shows. The 2013 Indiana Farm Fatality Summary data show there have been fewer than 30 documented deaths from farm-related accidents each year since 1996. Before then, deaths of well more than 30 people each year were common going back to at least 1970, with two years having at least 50. There also has been a continued decline in the number of farm fatalities involving children and other young people under the age of 21. Only one documented victim in 2013 was under the age of 21, a 15-year-old boy who died when a tractor overturned on him in Elkhart County. “Achieving zero incidents may be an unrealistic goal, but the record clearly shows that something is working and that many tragic incidents have been prevented during the same time as Indiana farmers have become more productive and efficient than at any time in history,” wrote co-authors Bill Field, Purdue Extension safety specialist, and agricultural and biological engineering graduate research assistant Yuan-Hsin Cheng.
Contributing to fewer fatalities, the authors said, are a decline in the number of Indiana residents who live and work on farms; advancements in the safety, durability and productivity of agricultural equipment; reduced dependency on youth labor; increasing expectations for safer and healthier workplaces; and continued efforts to increase awareness of the importance of managing risks in agriculture.
Advancements in medical care, including that provided by emergency services, also have contributed to lower fatality rates by increasing the probability of victims surviving injuries that once were deadly, according to the report. The authors said the fatalities count, compiled by the Purdue University Agricultural Safety and Health Program, might not be comprehensive because of the lack of consistent reporting requirements, Indiana residents dying at medical facilities in neighboring states, and victims dying from related medical complications well after an accident. The count was tallied through a variety of sources, including news reports, Web searches, voluntary reporting from Purdue Extension educators and individuals, and personal interviews.
Accidents were documented in the following counties in 2013: Bartholomew (2), Dearborn, Dubois, Elkhart, Fountain, Franklin, Fulton, Hancock, Hendricks, Howard, Koskiusko, Lake, LaPorte (2), Lawrence, Marshall and Posey. Accidents included suffocation in a grain bin; falling from a tractor and a concrete silo; an overturned mower, tractor and all-terrain vehicle; and being struck by farm equipment, among other causes. There were three instances in which victims died from being hit by a falling tree. The age of the victims ranged from 15 to 78 and averaged 61.4. All were males.
The authors noted a “dramatic decline” in the number of children and young adults reported as dying in agricultural workplaces. There have been only three reported deaths of people under the age of 18 in the past three years, the lowest number of such victims in a three-year period since at least beginning in 1994. “It is believed that the changing expectations of parents and the general public toward having children and youth employed in some types of farm work, considered especially hazardous, has had a significant influence on the declining trend in fatalities involving this group,” the authors said. “The introduction of larger, more complex and expensive equipment has also made many producers less comfortable using inexperienced workers to operate it.”
The full report is available at www.farmsafety.org