Odds are that if someone says 'farm accident' or 'farm fatality' the first thing that pops into your head is someone suffocating in a grain bin. That's because the press has given lots of play to this topic. Perhaps it's because it typically involves a dramatic rescue attempt, although it is often unsuccessful.
Purdue University and other groups have devoted lots of resources to publicizing solutions to this problem, notes bill Field, Purdue University safety specialist. Particularly at this time of year, when bins are being refilled, grain bins are on people's minds. Ironically, it's actually when bins are unloaded and grain is out of condition when it becomes more of an issue.
At the same time the leading cause of farm fatalities for 2010, according to the Farm Fatality Report for 2010 recently released by Field, was not grain bin entrapment. Instead, it's accidents involving tractors, the same leading cause for almost every year since Field has compiled the report.
Specifically, it's tractor rollovers. Tractor accidents of some sort account for about half of all fatalities, and tractor rollovers account for about half of those, he notes. Typically, it's an older tractor involved with a Rollover Protective Structure, or ROPS. Many companies discount ROPS to try to get people to install them, but people just aren't going to install them on some older tractors which are now classified as antiques, but still in use, such as Farmall M tractors or Massey Harris 44 models.
Tractor overturns can come from a variety of causes, including driving on too steep a slope, an inexperienced operator, or an older operator with slower reflexes. They can also come from improperly hitching to a stuck truck, stump or other immovable object. Remember to hitch low. If the chain is attached too high on the tractor, the tractor becomes the item that rotates, flipping backwards instantly once the clutch is engaged, often killing the driver.Someone driving a newer tractor with a cab and built in ROPS is still not immune for serious accidents. In the past, farmers in newer tractors have died crossing railroad tracks and being hit by a train. These involve lack of judgment, or distraction of some sort inside the cab which leads to the driver not observing the oncoming threat. Everyone needs to be alert when operating machinery.