Farm-related fatalities on the rise in Indiana

According to Purdue's annual Indiana Farm Fatality Report, farm-related deaths are on the rise throughout the Hoosier State. WLFI/File Photo
According to Purdue's annual Indiana Farm Fatality Report, farm-related deaths are on the rise throughout the Hoosier State. WLFI/File Photo

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — With fall harvest in full swing, farmers from each corner of the state are keeping busy and sometimes overlooking their safety.

According to Purdue’s annual Indiana Farm Fatality Report, farm-related deaths are on the rise throughout the Hoosier state.

“Over the past 30 or 40 years, we’ve seen a regular decline in the number of farm-work-related fatalities in the state; and over the last couple of years, we’ve seen a slight increase and last year it was about 10 percent,” said Bill Field, a professor at Purdue’s Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering.

The summary showed 25 farm-related deaths were reported in 2014. Twenty-eight deaths were reported last year.

Field said in many cases, old machinery and farmers unfamiliar with farming hazards account for a fair share of fatalities.

“Very few of the fatalities that we are involved with are on new machinery,” Field said.

As it stands right now, the biggest killer is tractor overturns — which make up for 39 percent of farm-related deaths.

“If we’re going to be doing any kind of work with an older operator, you outta be on a tractor that’s equipped with a rollover protective structure, a cab,” said Field. “So that if a tip-over does occur, they’re going to be less likely to be injured.”

Since coming to Purdue in 1977, Field has investigated 955 farm-related deaths.

“I’ve talked to a few of these families that have lost a family member due to a farm accident and … it impacts them significantly,” he said. “It changes the way they think, it changes their life. This is not something that one gets over easily.”

Field said Purdue’s Agricultural Safety and Health Program is the only entity in the state taking responsibility to conduct farm safety initiatives.

While initiatives are being made to keep farm-related deaths down, Field said efforts will continue in keeping farmers out of harms way.

“I still think we have work to do,” said Field.

The average age of an Indiana farmer is 58 years old. The average age of those who died in farm-related accidents is 62 years old.