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Agencies Release Report on Wisconsin Farm Fatalities
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 12/20/2022

A new study has shed some light on the various causes and frequency of deaths that occurred on Wisconsin farms in recent years. The National Farm Medicine Center and Marshfield Clinic Research Institute have teamed up with the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences in releasing the 2019-2020 Wisconsin Farm Related Fatalities report.

According to the groups' findings, 45 people died on state agricultural operations in 2019, while 28 were killed the following year. Researchers included incidents on public roadways involving agricultural equipment when compiling those figures.

"Farm fatality numbers remain alarmingly high, and because a farm is like any other dangerous industrial workplace, the types of hazards are many," said John Shutske, professor and agricultural safety specialist at the UW-Madison. "Many continue to be concerned with the high number of deaths on public roadways. Clearly, as farms get bigger and farmers need to spend more time on the road moving from farm to farm/field to field, we are going to see more and more risk on roadways."

The roadway deaths, in particular, stood out to the authors of the report. For example, a double roadway fatality in 2019 occurred when an unmarked farm truck contributed to the deaths of a Marathon County couple when their car struck the rear end chute of a farm production truck, which was unmarked (tail lights off) during hours of darkness.

"While traveling on public roadways or trails, operators should turn on their lights all the time, not just during hours of darkness," said Bryan Weichelt, Ph.D., an associate research scientist with the NFMC and project leader for AgInjuryNews.org. "If your vehicle or towed equipment is on the roadway, you want to be seen, you want to be visible."

Faculty members of the university and others working on farm safety research had compiled similar reports from 1943 through 2006, based mostly on newspaper clippings and other sources. But those efforts were discontinued for nearly a decade beginning in 2007.

Shutske and Weichelt also are concerned about the large number of younger children killed or seriously injured each year on farms.

"There is a perception that as farms become bigger and more reliant on hired farmworkers that children in the workplace is no longer the issue that it was 20 or 30 years ago. But these data paint a different story," explained Shutske, who says 40 minors died in farm related fatalities in 2019, followed by 28 in 2020.

The report includes demographic information, including age, gender and primary occupation. In each year, people ages 65 and older had the highest number of farm fatalities. The study did not include suicide events.

The Wisconsin Farm Related Fatalities report was funded in part by grant various grant dollars.


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