Margie Margentino, Former Program Associate, Animal Sciences
Karyn Malinowski, Director, Equine Science Center
Sara Malone, Teaching Instructor, Department of Animal Sciences
Farming is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. Mechanical, chemical, and environmental hazards put agricultural workers at risk for accidents. In 2016 alone, 417 farmers died in work-related accidents. Many of these deaths are due to tractor roll-over and mishaps with other machinery. Additionally, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, “Every day, about 100 agricultural workers suffer a lost-work-time injury.”
Machinery such as tractors and power tools pose the greatest injury risk on the farm. Nationwide in 2014 there were over 50,000 disabling injuries in agricultural operations. It is important to be safety-conscious when dealing with any job that requires the use of machinery. Statistics show that the majority of machinery-related accidents occur as the result of human negligence. Errors include taking shortcuts to save time, failure to read the operator’s manual, ignoring a warning, improper or lack of instruction, and failure to follow safety rules.
The most commonly utilized pieces of equipment around the farm are tractors, trucks, wagons, mowers, spreaders, grinders, blowers, augers, post hole diggers, shredders, balers, rakes, combines, and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). No matter how different they are in structure, they all, if used improperly or carelessly, can cause fatalities. Safety statistics show that the majority of farm-related injuries occur between 10 a.m. and noon, with the period between 3 and 5 p.m. second highest. It has been established that these time periods are when fatigue is most likely to occur, and concentration is not as sharp. It is a good practice to take periodic breaks to lessen fatigue. Climbing down off the tractor and walking around for a couple of minutes will help relieve stress and boredom.
Children have the highest rate of machinery-related injuries and fatalities. The 2014 Childhood Agricultural Injury Survey reported 11,942 non-fatal injuries to children under the age of 20. Male children accounted for 58 percent of the victims, and 63 percent of those children lived on the farm. The highest rates of injury were seen between the ages of 10 and 15. The majority of the injuries were on livestock farms—7,048 of the injuries were on livestock farms and 4,935 were on crop farms. The majority of agriculture-related fatalities among children involve machinery (25%), motor vehicles (17%) and drowning (16%). The most common injuries in children involving equipment include: corn or grain augers, tractors, ATVs, power take-offs, belt or chain attachments, hay balers, and pitchforks. In 2001, 31 percent of all youth living and working on a farm had operated an ATV, and ATV related injuries accounted for 10 percent of the non-fatal injuries of children under 20. Because of the seriousness of machinery-related accidents, many injuries result in permanent disabilities such as the loss of an arm, leg, fingers, toes, or a decreased range of motion. More than three-quarters require surgery or antibiotic treatment for bacterial infection or both. Workers over the age of 65 do not have an excessive number of injuries, but the likelihood of an injury being fatal is the greatest.
Machinery and Equipment Storage Buildings
There are numerous precautions that should be observed when storing machinery on the farm. They include:
This publication was made possible in part by a grant from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Program on Agricultural Health Promotion Systems for New Jersey.
Revised August 2019