WEST LAFAYETTE — A report from Purdue University showed 21 work-related on-farm deaths in Indiana in 2019, the fewest number of documented deaths in farming since 2013.
The annual Indiana Farm Fatality Summary with Historical Overview, released by the university's Agricultural Safety and Health Program, coincides with National Farm Safety and Health Week, which has been observed the third week of September since 1944.
According to the report, tractors and skid steer loaders were involved in at least eight of the 21 documented fatal farm incidents. Three of the victims were children under the age of 5, while 11 were 60 or older.
"The continued incidence of tractor rollovers indicates that a greater focus on the value of Rollover Protection Structures — especially on tractors used for mowing — could prove beneficial," the report states.
The number of farm fatalities for the past 50 years continues to trend lower, likely a result of safer machinery and work practices but also corresponding with a decline in the number of farmers.
There is no Indiana agency that tracks farm-related non-fatal injuries, but previous research has indicated that approximately one in every nine Indiana farms has a farm-work-related injury incident that requires medical attention every year.
Bill Field, Purdue agriculture and biological engineering professor and extension safety specialist, has summarized over 1,100 farm fatalities during his career.
"Every one of these lives mattered to someone," Field said. "Each one was an added cost to the food we enjoy every day."