Farm Deaths Increase Slightly

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(Image Courtesy: Purdue Extension) (Image Courtesy: Purdue Extension)

An annual statewide report shows farm-related deaths increased last year. Purdue University's Indiana Farm Fatality Summary says 25 deaths occurred in 2014, compared to 18 a year earlier.

The Purdue Agricultural Safety and Health Program, which puts together the data, says farm-related deaths have remained on "an overall downward trend," despite the year-over-year increase. The 2014 numbers break down to 17.5 per 100,000 Indiana farm workers, compared to an estimated national death rate of 25.4 per 100,000. The report also includes farm-related, non-fatal injuries, which were down from previous years to around 6,500. Researchers say those numbers are difficult to track, as they are "largely" unreported.

Purdue Extension Safety Specialist Bill Field and agricultural and biological engineering graduate research assistant Yuan-Hsin Cheng, the authors of the report, say "achieving zero incidents may be an unrealistic goal, but the record clearly shows that something is working and that many tragic incidents have been prevented during the same time as Indiana farmers have become more productive and efficient than at any time in history."

Nearly one-third of the deaths reported in Indiana involved overturned tractors. The report lists other fatal incidents including burning brush, barn fires, asphyxiation from smoke inhalation, a head injury from livestock, falling trees and an accidental drowning.

Researchers compiled the information from news reports, Web searches, voluntary reporting from Purdue Extension educators and interviews.

The Purdue report is separate from the preliminary Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, which was released last week by the Indiana Department of Labor.

The report also suggests the economic toll of farming injuries is on the rise due to increasing costs of medical and rehabilitation care.

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