Agricultural safety: A long way to go

Wisconsin suffered 30 farm-related fatalities in 2005, an increase from 25 in 2004, but still fewer than 37 that occurred in 2003. These fatalities were all related to farm work or hazards of the farm work site, and do not include recreational or home-related deaths that may have occurred on a farm. “According to the National Safety Council, agriculture is consistently one of the three most hazardous industries in the country,” said UW-Extension agricultural safety specialist Cheryl Skjolaas. National Safety Council statistics show agriculture had an estimated 642 work deaths in 2004 and a worker death rate of 29.2 per 100,000 workers. That compares with 4952 fatalities for all U.S. industries combined, with a death rate of 3.5 per 100,000 workers.

“Clearly, agriculture has a long way to go to become safer. We see many of the same types of serious and fatal injuries year after year, even though we know how to prevent them,” said Skjolaas.

In 2005, as in previous years, deaths involving tractors and other farm machinery were common in Wisconsin, with 16 tractor-related and three machinery-related fatalities.

“Tractor rollovers and runovers, which accounted for 13 of the tractor-related fatalities, can be prevented,” said Skjolaas. “We know that operating tractors with rollover protective structures (ROPS), or putting ROPS on tractors without them, will prevent tractor rollover deaths. We know that eliminating extra riders, and keeping young children away from moving machinery, will prevent runovers.”

Skjolaas said, “The number of animal-related fatalities has dropped since 2004 from seven to four.”

In 2005, farm-related fatalities were reported in 24 counties. One county had three fatalities, four counties had two fatalities and 19 counties had one fatality.

Most farm fatalities occurred in the first half of the year. All but three of the victims were male. Nearly three-quarters (about 73 percent) were over the age of 45. Three victims were under the age of 9.

Additional details about the 2005 or previous farm fatality reports are available at the website of the UW Center for Agricultural Safety and Health’s website, sponsored by UW-Extension and UW-Madison. The address is