WEST LAFAYETTE — Purdue University’s Agricultural Safety and Health Program released the annual Indiana Farm Fatality Summary with Historical Overview, coinciding with National Farm Safety and Health Week. The annual observance has taken place during the third week of September since 1944.
The program reported 20 work-related on-farm deaths in the state of Indiana in 2021. Data shows that tractors are the most common agent in farm-related fatalities, representing as many as 52% of documented cases in the past 10 years, with six reported cases in 2021. Other causes included grain entrapment, equipment runovers and entanglements, and asphyxiation by fumes in confined spaces.
This shows a decrease from the 25 cases identified in 2020 and marks the fewest cases reported in the past eight years. Farm fatalities for the past 50 years continue to trend lower, likely reflecting safer machinery and work practices while also corresponding with a decline in the number of farmers.
Despite this positive trend, program members urge agricultural workers to remain diligent and follow safety protocols. No Indiana agency requires official documentation of farm-related injuries or fatalities, but prior Purdue research has indicated that each year approximately 1 in 9 Indiana farms has a farmwork-related injury incident that requires medical attention.
Documented incidents involving those age 60 or older account for nearly half of all cases in the past five years, including 40% in 2021.
“Historically, farmers over the age of 60, including many who work only part-time, have accounted for a disproportionate number of farm-related injuries. Recent spikes in frequencies of fatalities over the past 10 years make this population of older farmers a special concern,” the report states.
Males account for most fatalities, with only one female fatality recorded in 2021. One victim was a child, but historical data shows an overall decline in the frequency of farm-related fatalities involving children and youth.
Ed Sheldon, report co-author and Purdue agricultural safety specialist, said, “It is encouraging that the average number of annual farm-related fatalities continues to decline. That said, in 2021, at least 20 Indiana families and communities felt the devastating impact of losing one of their own to a farmwork-related death.
“That’s a very somber reminder that we should never become complacent in our efforts to make our farms safer places to live and work.”
Agriculture safety guides, disaster preparedness resources and the Indiana Farm Fatality Summary can be found online.
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