Growing pains for farm families

Tracking farm fatalities in Canada


Farms are unique among industrial workplaces because people of all ages live on them. But children and elderly residents suffer “significant numbers of severe work-related injuries,” said the most recent report of Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting (CAIR), an agency based in Winnipeg.

Incidents involving children are preventable, Bobbi Kiesman said in a recent email exchange with Better Farming. She is an agricultural safety and health specialist who works for the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA). Fenced play areas and supervision by a “capable caregiver” are among the best ways to keep children safe on the farm, she said.

Agriculture ranks as the fourth most hazardous industry in Canada judging by rates of fatal injury, the 2016 CAIR report said. In terms of total fatalities, “there is no more dangerous occupation,” CAIR said.

Between 2003 and 2012, the most recent period of analysis available, Canada witnessed a total of 843 agriculture-related fatalities, showed CAIR data assembled by the University of Alberta’s Injury Prevention Centre in Edmonton. That figure equals an annual agriculture-related fatality rate of 11.5 per 100,000 farm residents.

Fatalities declined for the decade ending in 2012. The previous decade averaged 116 agriculture-related fatalities annually. The trend is “encouraging” and a sign that agricultural safety in Canada is “moving in the right direction,” said Marcel Hacault, CASA’s executive director.

The decline in fatalities occurred in all age groups, but adults older than 60 years of age show the highest fatality rates. For adults over 60, the data show fatality rates per 100,000 farm residents at 22.2 per cent in 2012. The figure was 34.6 per cent in 1990.

For adults between 15 and 59 years of age, the rate dropped from 7.6 per cent in 1990 to 4.2 per cent in 2012. For children under 14, the rate decreased from 9.6 per cent to 4.7 per cent.

Of 782 fatalities where the relationship between the victim and the farm operator was known, 55.0 per cent of those who died were operators themselves and 11.0 per cent were hired workers. A further 13.0 per cent were the children of farm operators.

Machinery is the leading cause of fatalities, accounting for almost three-quarters of the 843-person total between 2003 and 2012. Children between one and four years of age make up 33.0 per cent of what Kiesman described as “bystander runovers.”

However, drowning is also a farm hazard. Children under 10 years of age accounted for more than half of the 25 fatal drownings on farms between 2003 and 2012.

    tunart/iStock/Getty Images Plus photo

“Dugouts, lakes, ponds and lagoons may entice our children on hot days, (but these locations) can also be very dangerous,” Kiesman said.

Supervision of children on the farm and “competent child-care options, especially during the peak times, can prevent exposure to potential farm hazards,” she said. BF

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