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My Take: Nothing on the farm is worth taking an unnecessary risk, or putting children in danger.

Chris Torres, Editor, American Agriculturist

April 2, 2024

3 Min Read
A sign for safety first farm traffic
PUT SAFETY FIRST: Thirty-three people were killed in farm-related accidents on Pennsylvania farms last year, according to the Pennsylvania Farm Fatal Injury Summary. yongyut Chanthaboot/Getty Images

Thirty-three people were killed in farm-related accidents on Pennsylvania farms last year. That’s lower than the 37 people killed in 2022, but double the number of people killed in 2021.

It’s a grim reminder of how important farm safety is every growing season.

The Pennsylvania Farm Fatal Injury Summary, put together by Penn State Extension’s Agricultural Safety and Health Team, is an annual report compiled using death certificates, media reports of farm-related fatalities and public obituaries. These data sources are cross-referenced and checked for duplication and non-farming incidents.

One person dying of a farm-related accident is enough, let alone 33. But to see six people younger than age 10, and 10 people younger than 20, dying because of a farm accident is unconscionable.

Here are some tragic excerpts from the report:

  • A 4-year-old boy was killed when another youth farm helper ran into him while moving hay bales.

  • A 9-year-old boy was killed when the driver of a skid loader did not see him and ran him over.

  • A 2-year-old boy was killed from carbon monoxide toxicity generated by a generator.

  • An 18-month-old girl was run over by a wagon.

In all, 20 people were killed because of activities related to actual farm production work — crop production, animal production and the like.

Transportation incidents, which include tractor overturns and road crashes, are the leading cause of death for farmers and farmworkers across the country.

In Pennsylvania, 13 of the 33 fatal incidents were connected to vehicles. Five of the victims died from injuries related to farm tractors, and all these incidents involved the operator being pinned or trapped under a tractor — with at least three involving overturns — according to the report.

Two deaths resulted from incidents involving all-terrain vehicles and utility task vehicles.

The unfortunate reality is that accidents happen. Some farm work can be dangerous. But that doesn’t mean that this should be an accepted part of the job. Accidents can be prevented.

Take tractor rollovers. If you have an older tractor that doesn’t have a rollover protection device, or ROPS, there is money available for you to have a ROPS installed. Retrofit ROPS options are available for older farm tractors with financial support from the Pennsylvania Legislature, and the Pennsylvania Department of Economic and Community Development.

Pennsylvania farmers interested in retrofit options can visit the National ROPS website or contact Peggy Newel, administrative support assistant in Penn State’s Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, at [email protected].

If getting child care is the issue, you can get help finding and paying for child care services in Pennsylvania by going to the Pennsylvania Compass website.

Penn State Extension also has a lot of resources to promote safety and health on the farm, including resources on animal handling, farm equipment safety, disaster preparedness, personal protective gear and more.

Most importantly, though, if your children are working around you on the farm, please keep an eye on them. I have three children of my own, and they love going to their grandfather’s and uncle’s farm. But I always keep my eye on them because I know the risk of letting them get too close to certain animals, or getting in the way of other people who are working with big machines.

I remember a few years ago when I wrote a similar commentary, I got burned by several readers who thought I was out of touch by writing such a column. Well, I don’t think advocating for saving a life on the farm is out of touch. To me, it’s just common sense.

Good luck this growing season. And please be safe!

Read more about:

Farm Safety

About the Author(s)

Chris Torres

Editor, American Agriculturist

Chris Torres, editor of American Agriculturist, previously worked at Lancaster Farming, where he started in 2006 as a staff writer and later became regional editor. Torres is a seven-time winner of the Keystone Press Awards, handed out by the Pennsylvania Press Association, and he is a Pennsylvania State University graduate.

Torres says he wants American Agriculturist to be farmers' "go-to product, continuing the legacy and high standard (former American Agriculturist editor) John Vogel has set." Torres succeeds Vogel, who retired after 47 years with Farm Progress and its related publications.

"The news business is a challenging job," Torres says. "It makes you think outside your small box, and you have to formulate what the reader wants to see from the overall product. It's rewarding to see a nice product in the end."

Torres' family is based in Lebanon County, Pa. His wife grew up on a small farm in Berks County, Pa., where they raised corn, soybeans, feeder cattle and more. Torres and his wife are parents to three young boys.

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