New report examines agriculture-related fatalities in Midwest

Published on March 10, 2015

logo fo Great Plains Center for Agricultural HealthA new report by UI College of Public Health investigators sheds light on the more than 200 agriculture-related deaths per year that occur in Midwestern states, confirming that farming remains one of the nation’s most dangerous industries and poses particular risks to vulnerable populations such as elderly workers.

The goal of the report, sponsored by the UI Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health, is to facilitate access to agricultural fatality information for anyone interested in agricultural safety and health. The full report and an accompanying slide show are available at: http://cph.uiowa.edu/gpcah/center-projects/surveillance-of-agricultural-injuries-and-fatalities/.

Researchers Amanda Swanton, Tracy Young, Corinne Peek-Asa, Marizen Ramirez, and Fred Gerr studied 1,858 agriculture-related deaths that occurred between 2005 and 2012 in 12 Midwestern states, including Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

“Numerous hazards threaten farm workers including exposure to machinery, livestock, chemicals, noise, and physical stress, which can be compounded by the fact that agricultural activities are often performed in rural environments with limited access to medical services,” the authors explain.

Over the period reviewed, there were on average 232 agriculture-related fatalities per year in the Midwest region, an annual rate of 19.94 agriculture-related deaths per 100,000 farm operators. This compares with an overall rate of 3.4 fatal work injuries per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers across all industries in 2012.

The researchers also report that agriculture-related fatalities increase with age. Over three-quarters (77%) of agriculture-related deaths occurred among persons 45 years or older, and 41% occurred in individuals 65 and older. Less than 3% of agriculture-related fatalities occurred among minors less than 16 years old.

Other findings include:

  • Agriculture-related fatality is much more commonly experienced by males than females. Of the 1,858 total agriculture-related deaths studied, 95% occurred in males while only 5% occurred in females.
  • More than half (51.6%) of individuals who died due to an agriculture-related injury were performing a vehicle- or transportation-related task at the time of the incident. Of these 958 fatalities, 315, or 33%, were due to farm vehicle (e.g. tractor) rollovers.
  • Agriculture-related fatalities are most frequent from late spring to early fall. The greatest number of deaths occurred in July (13%), while the lowest number of deaths occurred in December (4%).
  • Fatalities most often occurred within 24 hours of the inciting injury, however deaths occurring after 24 hours were more frequent with increasing age. The fact that some older individuals do not die immediately of their injuries suggests that there may be an opportunity for medical intervention to potentially save these lives, however further research is needed.