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Better Technology = Fewer Fatalities on Indiana Farms

PHOTO: Farming can be a hazardous profession, but an annual report from Purdue University finds a continued downward trend in fatal accidents on Indiana farms. Photo credit: Jack Dykinga, U.S.Dept. of Agriculture.
PHOTO: Farming can be a hazardous profession, but an annual report from Purdue University finds a continued downward trend in fatal accidents on Indiana farms. Photo credit: Jack Dykinga, U.S.Dept. of Agriculture.
October 1, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS - Farming is becoming a safer profession in Indiana, and technology improvements may be the reason.

Deaths reported at Indiana farming operations were down in 2013, according to the Indiana Farm Fatality Summary from Purdue University. It documented 18 deaths from farm-related accidents, down from 26 in 2012.

Field extension safety specialist and report co-author Bill Field said advancements in the safety, durability and productivity of farm equipment have resulted in fewer Hoosiers who live and work on farms.

"That has pluses and minuses," he said, "but the reality is we have fewer farmers than ever producing more food than we've ever produced, and we're doing it safer. And the quality of the product is better than it's ever been before, and more consistent. This is a significant contribution of technology."

According to the data, there have been fewer than 30 documented farm-accident deaths each year since 1996. Prior to that, there were more than 30 deaths a year, dating back to 1970.

Accidents noted in the 2013 report include suffocation in a grain bin, falling from a concrete silo and being struck by farm equipment. Field said there have been more accidents involving farmers and falling trees, while working on wooded lots.

"That may have something to do with the increased use of firewood and additional clearing of land that's bringing about this change," he said, "or the increased number of these incidents."

Field said the annual research is helpful in reducing farming accidents, adding that with limited resources available on the topics of farm health and safety, it's important to use them wisely.

"As we look back, I think we've done a pretty good job of trying to target particular problems like injuries to children, rollover protective structure," he said. "All of them have shown dramatic drops in frequency, and I think that's because there's been a concerted effort to do that."

He said expectations for safer and healthier workplaces, as well as advancements in medical care, also have contributed to the lower death rates in agriculture.

The full report is online at farmsafety.org.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IN