Farm Injury & Fatality Data

You will notice that the tab for this section said “farm accident” data—but in the page we talk of farm injury and fatality data. It seems subtle, but there’s a reason. The dictionary definition of “accident” is an event that is completely unexpectedly or occurs because of chance, fate, bad luck, or just bad karma. As a farm safety specialist (for 37 years), I have investigated thousands of accidents—both fatal and non fatal. I’ve learned that these events are not random, and when you look backward in time, they are very predictable. This shift in thinking sounds picky, but it’s important.

Every farm work injury involves some type of a transfer of energy. This includes getting kicked by a cow, gored by a bull, wrapped up in a PTO, or dying under an overturned tractor. Ultimately even events like a manure gas death or suffocation in a grain bin that does not have enough oxygen involves the body’s energy systems in one way or another. A tractor or combine that burns in the field is about too much energy (heat) being released too quickly. A 50-gallon fuel tank is a great thing if it propels the machine through the field for eight hours.  If it all burns at the end of a field in five minutes, it’s not.

An engineer’s principal job is to harness energy for good purposes. To understand these issues, we need data. Data help us understand risk factors, trends, causes, and ultimately form a basis for prevention and intervention activities. Prevention is NOT just education—Do this, don’t do that. Prevention and regulation are also not always the same. The preferred way to PREVENT is to purposely design safe working conditions, equipment, facilities, animal handling systems, protocols, etc. so that we don’t have to just “work around known hazards.” On this page, we will be gathering an array of data and information that begins to paint a fuller picture of these issues.  This will include links to important articles. Check back often as we will be updating and building out this page in 2022 and 2023.

In 2020, UW and the UW Center for Agricultural Safety & Health, before its move to Extension, partnered with the National Farm Medicine Center in Marshfield, Wisconsin to study all farm work-related fatalities in the state for 2017 and 2018. Our work found 41 deaths in 2017, and 34 in 2018.  Tractors were the source of the majority of non-highway fatalities, and machinery is often the agent involved in entanglement, amputation injury, crushing, and other forms of non-fatal injury. Analysis for 2019 and 2020 is occuring beginning in September 2022.

These Farm Fatality Summaries Can be Found Here:

From 1943 to 2006 Biological Systems Engineering Extension Safety Specialists compiled an annual Wisconsin Farm-Related Fatality Report. These are provided below. A chart showing the causes of Farm-Related Fatalities 1997-2006 shows that the majority of fatalities are tractor related, but a significant portion are caused by machinery. This chart, Farm Related Fatalities by Age 1997-2006, shows that most victims were over the age of 65.