Bill Field announced earlier this spring that 2006 set a record low for fatalities related to farm accidents in Indiana. Only eight deaths were verified by his staff. Field is the Purdue University farm safety specialist, and he directs activities of several safety efforts, including collecting statistics on farm accidents. There is no statewide mandatory farm accident reporting system, so most of them are gleaned form newspapers or word of mouth, and then verified.
Unfortunately, there have been more of those types of articles to glean lately. One making the news was a truck-tractor accident in Hamilton County in mid-June. A tractor with a bale spear mounted on front of the loader pulled out from a hard-to-see spot, and was struck by a pickup truck that was in a difficult position to see the tractor emerging from the driveway. The spear broke off, but not before crashing into the truck and being implicated as the primary cause for the death of one of the passengers in the pickup, a Johnson County resident.
Other highway accidents won't make Field's statistics, because they technically aren't farm-related. But there seems to be a rash this summer of highway wrecks involving 4-H and FFA kids. Some driving too fast- some simply inexperienced and losing control when a wheel drops off the edge of the road. Fortunately, most of the ones reported to us, although lethal to the vehicles, left the youngsters unharmed.
One accident led to much more severe consequences. And although it's again not technically a farm accident, a retired farm couple were hit head on by a young man trying to avoid a major pothole in a country road. Hospital bills will run well into six figures, if not more. The cost of accidents today on the farm or on roadways is another point Field makes when trying to instill the need for following as many safety practices as possible.
Season-type injuries have also made the oral news circuit this summer. Some don't always make the papers, but they're very real all the same. One of them coming our way indicated that a man was severely burned by anhydrous ammonia when a sudden leak sprayed him with anhydrous.
That's one reason some dealerships have boldly said no to anhydrous and moved to all liquid nitrogen sources. That's a tough decision when ammonia is still considerably cheaper than liquid sources, but more dealers apparently feel it's worth it. Not only is liquid nitrogen a safer product for the farmer, but by getting out of the anhydrous business and selling of tanks and equipment, they reduce liability.
So despite great news last year, there's still plenty of reason to practice safety on the farm this summer. Think before you act, and play offensive, practicing safe working habits, so you don't have to react.