By William Bill Hurst
Farm work rivals construction work as one of most dangerous jobs in America. The national rate of death from farm accidents is about 22.1 deaths for 100,000 workers. The most common injuries involve various kinds of farm equipment, structures like gain bins (entrapments), chemical exposures, spills, fires, toxic exposures and, finally, and least likely, farm animals causing accidents resulting in injury. Injuries involving farm tractors result in nearly 270 deaths each year in the United States and account for almost 265,000 restricted work days and some 11,000 lost time injuries. https://deltafarmpress.com/farm-accidents-enough-enough.
As a part of the Purdue Farm Fatality Report issued recently (2011), Bill Field, a Purdue University Farm Safety Specialist, made a chilling observation that “besides the 23 documented fatalities on Indiana farms in 2010”, he estimates that there were “slightly more than 6,770 non-fatal accidents”. These accidents on Indiana farms ranged from a few scrapes to a crippling disability. Certainly the worst of the lot resulted in amputations, severely mangled limbs, and spinal cord and brain injuries. While the 2010 data isn’t available at this point, 2009 estimates are that non-fatal farm injuries cost an average of $1,200 per incident. That is an economic effect when totaled of over $8.12 million dollars annually. This estimate does not include the cost of replacement labor to help on the farm operation while the person with the injury recuperates. You can get helpful tips for keeping your family safe at the following websites: https://www.farmsafety.org or www.grainsafety.org and https://agrability.org.
As stated, tractor accidents are the major cause of farm work related deaths. It is estimated that between 500 to 600 people are killed each year in tractor accidents. For every person killed, another 40 are injured. “Overturns” account for more than half of all tractor-related deaths. Falls involving operators and extra riders (often children) account for the second leading cause of serious injury. www.ces.Purdue.ed/extramedia/s/s-56.html. Studies show that most of these accidents happen during peak cropping months from April to October in Indiana and most of them involve persons aged 25 to 64. It is an important safety rule to ensure that each person who operates a tractor is trained, physically fit, and qualified to do the job. A new tractor operator should practice with and without equipment attached prior to becoming an operator. A skilled operator should be the trainer for the new farm worker. The new operator can eventually take the seat and operate the tractor with the trainer standing on the drawbar to give assistance if needed before working on his own.
Other factors affecting the reliability and safety of the tractor operator has to do with maintenance which involves making a preoperational check of every tractor before use. The tractor operation manual is an important safety manual and should be read, known and understood. Following all the operation precautions recommended outlined in the manual is required for safe operation of a tractor. More and more farmers are recognizing the safety involved in having a “cab” installed on the tractor constructed of a crush-resistant protective frame which will give the operator protection from overturns, from weather and will reduce operator fatigue.
Another source of tractor related injury involves the power take-offs shafts which must be guarded at all times. There are two common types of PTO stubs shaft “shields” commonly in use to protect persons from contacting the rotating power shaft. In all instances, the stubs shaft guard should always be in place. Some older tractors lack adequate PTO stub shaft protection and should only be used with extra caution. Shields are cheap insurance against serious injury. For a lengthy list of some basic safety practices, please see www.ces.purdue.edu.
Knowing what to do and how to do it goes a long way to ensure safe tractor operation. It is important that the operator be in good physical and emotional condition when he is operating a tractor. It is important that he is comfortable while operating the tractor so he can function safely in conformance with the safety recommendations of the manufacturer.
The age of an operator is in part regulated by federal and State law. If an operator is under 18, federal labor law will affect this person’s ability to operate a tractor. Unless you are working for a parent or a guardian on a farm owned and operated by your parent or your guardian, you are not permitted to operate a tractor for over 20 PTO-HP and certain other farm machinery. (These farm jobs can be started at age 14 with special 4-H or VO-Agg training.) You need to check with your County Extension also for up-to-date information regarding underage workers on farms.
If you have been injured in an accident, you should act swiftly and contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. Our attorneys have successfully represented clients in various types of accidents resulting in large settlements and verdicts. Call us for a free consultation at 800-636-0808 or contact us and see our website at We charge a fee only if we win your case!