As a young girl, I remember riding on the fender on of my father’s International Harvester 1066. On Nov. 28, 2014, those memories would stop, and the rules on the farm would change.
A family friend stopped by as I was completing chores. He told me my younger brother, Loren, had been run over by a tractor. As an older sister, I had never thought I would have to think about losing my younger brother so soon. I am very lucky to still have him in my life today.
The accident resulted from him standing on the step of a small tractor driving across a frozen field. A bump caused his foot to catch in the tire tread and pulled him underneath. He was lucky to walk out with a few scratches and a 3-millimeter fracture in his eye socket.
From that day forward, we implemented strict safety rules in hopes of never repeating that accident with a very different outcome. Never again would we sit on fenders or catch a ride on the step of a tractor. The safety of our family became more important than trying to quickly finish as many jobs as possible.
In 2019, 21 families in Indiana lost members of their families to farm-related accidents, as reported in the Indiana Farm Fatality Summary With Historical Overview. Purdue University’s Agricultural Safety and Health Program has monitored farm-related fatalities in Indiana for nearly 60 years. Bill Field, Purdue University Extension ag engineer, heads up the effort.
The development of equipment like GSI’s Res-Q-Tube for use in grain entrapments has helped. An Indiana company, Iron Bull, manufactures rollover protective structure tractor frames and canopies for older equipment. These innovations have helped ensure the safety of operators.
The age of victims in 2019 ranged from just 3 years to 88 years, while the average age was 50.7; that’s lower than the average age of Indiana famers, which is 55.5, according to the summary. There has been a decline in frequency of farm-related fatalities involving children and anyone under 18. This trend is encouraging for a younger generation that wants to be a part of agriculture.
Updated safety information and more transparency about agriculture-related accidents are more widely available for people to use for safety education.
“I am very lucky to be a survivor and now have respect for the equipment that we use,” Loren says.
He is lucky to have an interesting fact to say when introducing himself to groups, he says. There is a lesson to learn after such an incident. Our parents’ decision to become stricter regarding the safety of employees has helped keep everyone safe.
Our farm recently implemented a new safety procedure: wearing high-visibility safety apparel when working with equipment. Such practices play a significant part in lowering the rate of farm accidents.
Information from the Purdue summary can help farmers who are already looking forward to planting season in 2021. It again marks the start of more frequent use of equipment. The potential for accidents will increase. The information from this study will help farms implement safety plans to keep family members and employees safer.
Matlock is a senior in agricultural communication at Purdue University. Her brother, Loren, is the 2020-21 Indiana FFA vice president for the Southern Region.