By: Melanie Forti, Health & Safety Programs Director
Tractors are more commonly used on farms than any other piece of equipment. They are typically used to transport equipment and materials, pull tillage, wagons, and others. Unfortunately, every year tractor accidents are very common resulting in serious injuries and tragic loss of life. The cost of fatalities is substantial – due to property damage, medical bills, workers comp., reduced productivity, and insurance. The major causes of injury and death to tractor operators are rollovers, drivers falling out, and contact with tractor attachments.
According to National Agricultural Safety Database[i] (NASD), overturns, run overs, entanglement, and highway collisions involving agricultural tractors kill approximately 250 people a year. They are by far the leading cause of death and serious injury in agriculture. Overturns consistently account for more than half this total, despite the fact that a simple solution is available and has been for years. Evidence from Europe and elsewhere shows that overturn deaths and serious injuries are virtually eliminated when rollover protective structures (ROPS) are installed on all tractors.
The U.S. Department of Labor [ii](DOL) states that tractor accidents on farms cause the highest number of fatalities with tractor overturns accounting for 44 percent of all tractor fatalities. Fruit farms have the highest work injury rate among various specified agricultural operations (233 injuries per million hours of exposure). Males have a higher injury rate than females and hired workers have higher injury rates than family members. What’s more, farm surveys indicate that the injury rate is highest among children age 15 and under and adults more than 65 year of age. It has been estimated that the use of protective equipment, such as seat belts on tractors, could prevent up to 40% of all farm work injuries.
The Center for Disease Control [iii]released the following statistics:
- In 2012, 374 farmers and farm workers died from a work-related injury, resulting in a fatality rate of 20.2 deaths per 100,000 workers. Tractor overturns were the leading cause of death for these farmers and farm workers.
- On average, 113 youth less than 20 years of age die annually from farm-related injuries (1995 -2002), with most of these deaths occurring to youth 16-19 years of age (34%).
- Of the leading sources of fatal injuries to youth, 23% percent involved machinery (including tractors), 19% involved motor vehicles (including ATVs), and 16% were due to drowning.
- Every day, about 167 agricultural workers suffer a lost-work-time injury. Five percent of these injuries result in permanent impairment.
Manufacturers are continually improving the design of tractors to make them safer. However, they are still unable to build in technology which recognizes unsafe conditions. Therefore, tractor operators who know their machine and are aware of the hazards which may occur, are better equipped to avoid a tractor mishap.
In order to help mitigate tractor injuries and fatalities among the farmworkers community, AFOP has created a low-literate bilingual curriculum on tractor safety. Moving forward we hope to be able to expand this curriculum by adding complimentary training tools.
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