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Summary of Report

Injuries and Fatalities on U.S. Farms

By Jack L. Runyan, Food and Rural Economics Division.

AIB-739, January 1998

Contact: Jack L. Runyan, 202-694-5438,

Farm operators and their families suffered 72 percent of the 673 work-related farm fatalities in 1992 and a third of the 64,813 nonfatal farming injuries. Hired farmworkers endured 44,383 nonfatal and less than a third of fatal work-related injuries.

Farming has one of the highest fatality rates of all occupations, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Farmers and farmworkers receive little formal safety training and they often work alone and are often far from assistance should an injury occur.

The total of 673 farmwork-related fatalities was 1 for every 2,861 farms--the United States had more than 1.9 million farms in 1992. The total number of injuries amounted to 1 for every 29 farms.

Farm operator and family member fatality rates in Delaware, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin were higher than the U.S. average per 1,000 farms. Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, and Maryland reported higher-than-average fatality rates among hired laborers per 1,000 farms that reported labor costs.

Of the 64,813 nonfatal injuries, about 32 percent were to farm operators and family members, a rate of about 10.6 injuries per 1,000 farms. Hired workers suffered about 64 injuries per 1,000 farms with labor costs. Hired workers were injured at a higher rate on the following types of farms: farms where operators characterized farming as their principal instead of secondary occupation, farms where the operator was 45 to 64 years old, farms with tenant operators rather than operators who were partial or full farm owner, farms of 1,000 acres or more, farms with sales at or over $500,000 per year, farms producing mainly horticultural-specialty products, farms owned by corporations other than the primary farm operator, and farms located in California, Connecticut, Florida, and, especially, Hawaii.

Connecticut, Nevada, and Hawaii had the greatest injury rates per 1,000 hired workers, while the lowest rates were in Kentucky, North Dakota, and Tennessee. Farm operators and family members were nonfatally injured at higher rates when operators were principally farmers, 44 years old or younger, and part owners, and the farms were family-held corporations, were over 1,000 acres, sold at least $500,000 in agricultural products, primarily produced dairy products, and were in the Lake States region. Wyoming, Wisconsin, Vermont, and New York had the highest injury rates per 1,000 farms for operators and their family members; Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Louisiana had the lowest rates.

The greater number of injuries in both the Lake States region and in farms producing dairy products may be related. Dairy farms' slippery surfaces, combined with colder temperatures, may produce more hazardous working conditions. The risk of injury varies with characteristics of farmers and farms. This study is a limited analysis of the fatal farm injuries and a broader analysis of nonfatal farm injuries in 1992, the first year such data are available in the Census of Agriculture.

It may be possible to reduce the risk of occupational injuries through regulation, engineering, education, or a combination of these methods. However, each method has limitations. Most farming operations are exempt from Federal regulations. Farm machinery’s longevity outlasts many safety devices, which are not replaced, and safety innovations take years to become widely used. Developing effective farm safety education programs requires the cooperation of all parties involved in farming--operators, family members, farmworkers, manufacturers, researchers, and farm safety specialists.

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