Thursday, November 30, 2017

Increase in inexperienced farmers leads to rise in accidental deaths and injuries

Farming has always been a risky business, even for experienced farmers, from equipment accidents to grain-bin suffocations, but the increasing popularity of hobby and sideline farms may be contributing to more incidents. The 2012 Census of Agriculture showed that there were more than 813,000 farms of fewer than 50 acres in the U.S., an increase of almost 10 percent from 2002. And Purdue University farm-safety expert Bill Field, who has tracked farm fatalities for almost 40 years, says that almost a quarter of Indiana's farm fatalities over the past four years were on hobby farms, Rick Callahan reports for the Associated Press.

USDA map; click on the image to enlarge it
Part of the problem is that hobby farmers tend to be amateurs who were lured to farming from other careers, and don't have the experience to avoid common farm accidents. Tractor rollovers are the leading cause of death on small farms, partly because of inexperience, and partly because hobby farms are the among the only places in the U.S. where cheaper, older tractors without rollover bars and other safety features are still in use. Some hobby or sideline farmers are still working day jobs and try to wedge in farm chores at odd hours; fatigue and working alone can also contribute to accidents.

Farms with 10 or fewer workers aren't regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration workplace safety rules, notes Jesse Hirsch ofModern Farmer. Frank Gasperini, executive vice president of the National Council of Agricultural Employers, warned in a July article in the Journal of Agromedicine that "very small, subsistence, part-time, non-traditional and hobby farms will continue to pose significant challenges" to the safety of U.S. agriculture.

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