2016 Indiana farm fatalities most since 1990

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The number of Hoosier farmers killed on the job soared last year to its highest total since 1990, with tractor-related incidents again accounting for the largest number of deaths.

The annual Indiana Farm Fatality Summary, released last week by the Purdue University Agricultural Safety and Health Program, reports 44 work-related on-farm deaths in the state in 2016, a 57 percent increase from the 2015 total of 28 and the third-highest number of fatalities recorded in the past 47 years.

Purdue Extension safety specialist Bill Field, professor of Agricultural & Biological Engineering, said even with last year’s jump, the number of farm fatalities reported in the state has been steadily decreasing since 1970. Field cited a number of reasons for the downward trend, including fewer Hoosiers living and working on farms, safer and more efficient farm equipment and a greater awareness of the importance of risk management.

“We have experienced spikes over the years and this may prove to be another statistical outlier,” he said. “However, I am concerned that the number of older farmers, part-time and hobby farmers, and those involved with cutting wood who are injured is increasing.”

More than a third of all reported Indiana farm fatalities last year – 16, or 36 percent – were the result of tractor accidents, primarily rollovers.

“Over the past 50 years, tractor overturns have accounted for the single largest category of farm-related deaths, even considering that roll-over protective structures (ROPS) have been standard equipment on new tractors since 1985,” the report states.

The number of children age 17 or younger killed in farm accidents rose from 1 in 2015 to 4 last year, while the number of fatalities among farmers age 60 and older rose from 17 two years ago to 19 in 2016. The youngest victim last year was a 4-year-old in Union County, killed in a grain wagon entrapment. The oldest victim, a 93-year-old in DeKalb County, died in a welding accident.

Other incidents reported in 2016 included:

* Six farmers were killed by falling trees or logs.

* Two died in a Sept. 26, 2016 grain dust explosion in Pulaski County.

* A Miami County farmer was electrocuted while operating a sprayer near power lines.

Data for the report was collected from news reports, Internet searches, personal interviews and reports from individuals and Purdue Extension educators.

The full report is available at: https://engineering.purdue.edu/~agsafety/IRSHC/Docs/Fatality/Fatality.Summary.2016.pdf

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