Revised July 2007
Farming is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. Mechanical, chemical and environmental hazards put agricultural workers at risk for accidents. Over 700 farmers die in work-related accidents yearly. Many of these deaths are due to tractor roll-over and mishaps with other machinery.
Machinery such as tractors and power tools, pose the greatest injury risk on the farm. Nationwide in 1997 there were 705 deaths and 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 be fatal. Fifty percent of total farm fatalities involve tractors and 14% are machinery related. A breakdown of the machinery related fatalities is as follows: 34% corn pickers, 11% silage handling, 11% hay baling, 11% manure handling, and 33% other miscellaneous farm machinery.
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 highest4. 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 2001 Childhood Agricultural Injury Survey reported 22,648 non-fatal injuries to children under the age of 20. Sixty percent of the victims were male, and seventy-four 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. Horse-related accidents accounted for 2,388 of the injuries, 11,430 of the injuries were on livestock farms and 5,421 were on crop farms. The majority of child deaths occurred when children were extra passengers on machinery and were run over. 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. Thirty-one percent of all youth living and working on a farm had operated an ATV in 2001, and ATV-related injuries accounted for 10% 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 both5.
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. Between 1985 and 1989, 50% of total farm fatalities involved children under the age of 14 and workers over the age of 65. In the over 65 age group, two-thirds of the fatalities were tractor-related.
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.
© 2007 by Rutgers Cooperative Extension, NJAES, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.