Hazardous profession In the past two decades, nearly 2,000 people have died in farm ‘accidents’ — although experts say virtually all are preventable
The number of fatalities is falling on Canadian farms, but the statistics are far from good.
The average number of deaths on farms has fallen to 89 annually since 2000, compared to 118 annually throughout the 1990s, according to the latest Canadian Agricultural Injury Report.
No deaths is the only acceptable number, but the decline is encouraging, and is a sign that more farmers are making their workplace safer, said Marcel Hacault, executive director of the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association.
“We’re definitely seeing evidence of a greater commitment to managing safety risks on farms,” Hacault said in a news release.
Farmers are showing increased interest in safety training courses for their employees and beginning to build safety plans into their business operations, he said.
But the operative word is ‘beginning.’ Only about 15 per cent of Canadian farmers have a safety plan, according to a 2011 Farm Credit Canada survey. Improvements to farm equipment is also playing a role.
“The farm equipment they’re using allows them to farm more safely, ” Hacault said. “A lot of the hazards that were there in the past are no longer there.”
The overall fatality rate from 1990 to 2008 was 13 deaths per 100,000 farmers, although that jumped to 80 deaths per 100,000 for those age 80 and over. During that period, the number of children killed on the farm decreased from 16 deaths per year from 10. Many of those deaths occurred when the child fell while riding in a tractor or was struck when someone was backing up a piece of equipment.
In all, there were 1,975 deaths on farms or agricultural operations between 1990 and 2009. The top causes are rollovers, run-overs, and entanglement in machinery.
These are predictable and preventable events, not random or isolated “accidents,” said Hacault.
“If more producers made sure all their tractors had Roll Over Protection Systems (ROPS) and wore seatbelts, it would go a long way toward making farm work safer,” he said.