Once every year, Bill Field releases a farm fatalities summary covering the previous year in Indiana. Until that number is zero, expect him to release this report. Field is the farm safety Extension specialist at Purdue University.
The number in this latest report is far less than the 76 reported killed in 1966, when the first identified summary was published by Purdue. But the pain for those who lost loved ones in 2017, the last year for which data has been summarized, is still there, Field says.
“I’ve talked to the people who lost someone in an accident, felt their pain and seen their anger as they try to deal with grief,” he says. Facts catch your attention, he notes, but it’s important to remember there is real human suffering associated with each number.
2017 farm fatalities summary
Yuan-Hsin Cheng contributed to the 2017 report. Here are 10 facts gleaned from it:
1. There were 36 farm fatalities in 2017. That’s the ninth-highest number of fatalities in farm-related accidents in the past 48 years in Indiana, Field says.
2. The average for the past 10 years is 26.4 fatalities per year. 2017 continued a four-year run of a significant increase above the 10-year average.
3. The first two deaths of 2017 involved falls. One was a fall on the farm; the other was a fall from a tractor. Both involved people older than 70 years old.
4. Tractor overturns have accounted for the single-largest category of deaths for 50 years. Five tractor overturn fatalities occurred in 2017, but a total of 13 deaths involved tractors.
5. Older people are more likely to die in farm accidents. Over the past five years, nearly 50% of the fatal incidents have involved people 60 years old or older. Exactly 50% were 60 or older in 2017.
6. Working with trees and brush accounted for two deaths in 2017. Both occurred in Gibson County. The 2018 summary will include at least one more — a logger was killed on a farm in Indiana in September.
7. Four children, ages 1 through 17, died in farm accidents in 2017. The number of child deaths has declined over time, but it rose again in both 2016 and 2017. Since 1994, no one 17 or younger was killed in only two years: 1998 and 2011.
8. Someone dies on one out of every 1,597 farms in Indiana each year. That uses the definition of a farm established by USDA. Your odds of dying on a farm are much higher than winning a state or national lottery. The death rate is approximately 25.2 out of each 100,000 farmworkers in Indiana.
9. March is the safest month; September is the deadliest month. This trend holds for 2007 through 2017. In earlier years, when harvest tended to run later, deaths peaked in October to early November.
10. No entrapment deaths occurred in 2017. No deaths in confined spaces, including grain bins, was good news from the 2017 summary. There were only two cases reported where someone was extricated from grain in 2017.