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October 2005, Vol. 128, No. 10
Fatal occupational injuries to older workers in farming, 1995-2002
Agriculture is known to be a dangerous industry in which to work.1 In fact, in the late 1980s, the National Coalition for Agricultural Safety and Health stated, "America’s most productive work force is being systematically liquidated by an epidemic of occupational disease and traumatic death and injury in the face of diminishing local and Federal resources."2
Researchers have found agricultural workers aged 55 years and older to be one of the working populations with the largest risk of fatal injury.3 In 1994, Scott Richardson and Andrew Schulman concluded that the high overall rate of fatal injuries among older workers appeared to be related to their distribution among certain high-risk occupations and industries, primarily agriculture related.4 In a 2004 publication, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health noted that the fatality rate for agricultural workers 55 years and older differed considerably from the overall rate for private-sector workers in that age group.5
The most significant types of injuries to workers over the age of 55 in farming occupations involve machinery and livestock.6 Farm tractors were previously identified as the most noteworthy source of fatal injury to workers in that age group.7 Of serious consequence is the fact that two-thirds of all tractors in use are not equipped to protect the operator from rollover injury.8 A previous study found that more than 40 percent of fatal injuries involving animals involved workers 55 years and older; the study went on to say that the majority of cattle-related deaths were incurred by workers aged 65 years and older.9 Other sources of injury involve weather, falls, grain bins and silos, chemicals and toxic gases, and manure pits and wells.10
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1 John Myers, David Hard, Karl Snyder, Virgil Casini, Rosemary Cianfrocco, Judy Fields, and Linda Morton, "Risks of Fatal Injuries to Farm Workers 55 Years of Age and Older," American Journal of Industrial Medicine Supplement, October 1999, pp. 29–30; Stephen A. McCurdy and Daniel J. Carroll, "Agricultural Injury," American Journal of Industrial Medicine, October 2000, pp. 463–80.
2 Kelly J. Donham, Burton C. Kross, James A. Merchant, and David S. Pratt, Agriculture at Risk: A Report to the Nation, summary report of the Agricultural, Occupational and Environmental Health: Policy Strategies for the Future conference, Des Moines, IA, September 1988, and Iowa City, IA, September 1998; on the Internet at http://www.public-health.uiowa.edu/agatrisk/.
3 McCurdy and Carroll, "Agricultural Injury"; see also Suzanne M. Kisner and Stephanie G. Pratt, "Occupational Fatalities among Older Workers in the United States: 1980–1991," Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, August 1997, pp. 715–21.
4 Scott Richardson and Andrew Schulman, "Texas Study Finds Older Workers at Relatively High Risk of Fatal Occupational Injury," Compensation and Working Conditions, April 1994, pp. 1–8.
5 Worker Health Chartbook, 2004 (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, September 2004).
6 McCurdy and Carroll, "Agricultural Injury."
7 Myers and Hard, "Risks of Fatal Injuries."
8 Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health, TRAC-SAFE: A Community-based Program for Reducing Injuries and Deaths Due to Tractor Overturns; on the Internet at http://www.public-health.uiowa.edu/gpcah/tracsaf.htm.
9 Ricky Lee Langley and James Lee Hunter, "Occupational fatalities due to animal-related events," Wilderness and Environmental Medicine, vol. 12, no. 3, 2001, pp. 168–74.
10 Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA Fact Sheet: Farm Safety; on the Internet at http://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_General_Facts/FarmFactS2.pdf.
Related BLS programs
Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities
The relation of age to workplace injuries.—July 1988.
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