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Purdue study: Fewer farm-related deaths in Indiana in 2021

According to the newly released Indiana Farm Fatality Summary from Purdue University's Agricultural Safety and Health Program, there were 20 work-related, on-farm deaths in Indiana in 2021. This is down from 25 the previous year and is the fewest deaths recorded in eight years.

"Farm fatalities for the past 50 years continue to trend lower, likely reflecting safer machinery and work practices while also corresponding with a decline in the number of farmers," the report says.

Causes of death

Of those 20 work-related deaths on Indiana farms, six were attributed to tractor accidents. Historically, the report shows tractors are the most common cause of farm-related fatalities, making up 52% of cases over the past decade.

Other causes of death in 2021 included grain entrapment, being run over or entangled in equipment, and asphyxiation by fumes in confined spaces.

Older farmers, males more likely to be injured

While official documentation of farm-related injuries isn't required by any Indiana agency, Purdue's research indicates one in nine farms in the state has a formwork-related injury that requires medical attention each year.

Of the documented incidents, the report shows those age 60 or older accounted for 40% of deaths in 2021, and nearly half of all cases over the past five years.

"Historically, farmers over the age of 60, including many who work only part-time, have accounted for a disproportionate number of farm-related injuries," the report states. "Recent spikes in frequencies of fatalities over the past 10 years make this population of older farmers a special concern."

Men account for the vast majority of farm fatalities, with only one woman killed in a farm-related incident in 2021 in Indiana. 

One child was killed in the state last year, reflecting an overall decline in the frequency of farm fatalities involving youth. 

Purdue agricultural safety specialist and report co-author Ed Sheldon says, "It is encouraging that the average number of annual farm-related fatalities continues to decline. That said, in 2021, at least 20 Indiana families and communities felt the devastating impact of losing one of their own to a farmwork-related death. That’s a very somber reminder that we should never become complacent in our efforts to make our farms safer places to live and work.”

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