Agricultural injuries are the number one work place accident in Indiana. Recently, a Purdue University safety expert warned these numbers are underestimated by as much as 700%.
Here in Indiana, working in (1) farming, (2) fishing, (3) hunting, or (4) forestry requires different and specialized skills and talents. Nevertheless, the government groups all these jobs together into one label: the “agricultural industry.” The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) defines the agricultural industry as work involving:
- Raising crops or animals;
- Harvesting timber; or
- Harvesting fish or animals from their natural habitats or from a ranch or farm.
Work places may be a small enterprise, like the family farm. In Indiana, they are more likely to be larger operations. Most agricultural workers today are employed at commercial farms, ranches, or dairies; as well as fish hatcheries, orchards, and nurseries.
Major players in Indiana Agriculture include well-known companies like ADM; Beck’s; Bunge; Cargill; Culver Duck; ChoreTime; Cole Hardwood; CountryMark; Dow; Elanco; Fair Oaks Farms; Farbest Foods; Foremost Farms; Maple Leaf Farms; Monsanto; Pioneer; Red Gold; Rose Acre; and Remington Seeds.
An astounding 83% of the state land of Indiana is dedicated to farms and forests. Around a quarter of a million Hoosiers are employed in the agricultural industry. Farm crops are a big part of the industry; however, Indiana is also first in the country for production of products from locally forested hardwoods that include:
- office furniture;
- manufactured homes;
- kitchen cabinets; and
- plywood-type products.
Indiana Agricultural Industry: High Risk for Injury or Death
For any Hoosier, being on the job in agriculture can be dangerous. Indiana Labor Department statistics show the injury rate for Indiana’s agricultural workers doubled from 2013 to 2015.
In 2015, the agricultural industry had the highest number of reported on-the-job accidents for Hoosiers of any work site. And that’s probably way too low.
In an interview with Indiana Public Media, a Purdue University safety expert explained the actual number of accidents is higher than the statistics show. Why? Many farmers don’t report farm accidents, particularly those working on smaller local farms. It’s the bigger farming operations with over 10 farm workers that contribute most of the data used to compile the accident reports. That’s not covering all the farmers here in Indiana.
What does he think the real accident numbers are for Hoosiers? Maybe seven times as many injuries as the Indiana Department of Labor (“DOL”) tallied.
That’s 700% more than the report, and the DOL report already had the Indiana agricultural industry being the most dangerous work place in the state.
For more details and comments by Purdue University Professor Bill Field, read “Ag Injuries Up 30 Percent-But State Numbers Don’t Tell Whole Story,” written by Sarah Fentem and published online by Indiana Public Media on December 23, 2016.
Accident Dangers for Hoosiers Working in Agricultural Industry
For those who aren’t involved in farming, fishing, hunting, or forestry, these jobs – out in nature and away from the indoors – may seem peaceful and relatively safe. That’s a naïve assumption.
For instance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that farmers are “… at very high risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries.” Their studies show:
- Tractor overturns are the leading cause of death for these farmers and farm workers.
- Most farming fatalities happen to young workers, between 16-19 years of age (34%).
- Over 150 farm workers are injured on the job every day in this country, and 5% of those accident victims suffered permanent, life-altering injuries.
In 2014, there were 27 worker deaths in the Indiana agricultural industry (farming, fishing, forestry, and hunting). It was a 50% jump in the fatality rate from the previous year, and the highest occupational death rate in the state. In that year, almost half of worker deaths were caused by motor vehicle accidents of some kind.
Working in farming, fishing, hunting, or forestry here in Indiana is specialized work in a very dangerous industry. All too often, these risks are underappreciated, especially by industry employers.
Justice for Indiana Agricultural Workers Hurt on the Job
Agricultural workers can be placed in danger of injury or death from things like defective machines, unrepaired machines, damaged tools, worn equipment, chemicals, fires, and electrocution. They can be hurt or killed by events like tractors overturning or trucks crashing.
Failure of operation managers to keep things repaired and maintained can mean a permanent injury or wrongful death to the Hoosier who is working in the agricultural industry. Ignoring the need for prompt medical care and treatment of injuries at a bacteria-laden farm or hatchery can also be the cause of severe harm to the injured worker.
Indiana laws are on the books to help agricultural workers who have been injured on the job while working on an Indiana farm, ranch, dairy; hatchery, orchard, forest, or nursery. There are workers’ compensation and wrongful death laws in place to help the injured worker and his family. State product liability laws as well as defective product and negligent supervision claims may also be available to him.
More than one party may be liable for damages as well. Multiple defendants may share liability in the bigger operations where contractors and third-parties work in tandem with the agricultural employer in harvesting crops or in the logging process.
We know there is an acknowledged increase in the number of injuries among Hoosiers working in the agricultural industry. Experts warn these reported numbers are underestimated by as much as a whopping 700%.
If you or a loved one work in (1) farming, (2) fishing, (3) hunting, or (4) forestry here in Indiana, then please stay alert and aware of the danger and high risk of harm that you face on the job. Be careful out there!