By Tom Collins
The dry weather during the 2016 planting and harvest seasons may be the reason behind a significantly lower number of farms deaths last year, says the agriculture program manager with Workplace Safety & Prevention Services.
“Although stressful, the weather was pretty conducive to getting it (harvest) done,” said Dean Anderson. “You didn’t have guys who had to work 18 hours straight because rain was going to come tomorrow. That’s when accidents happen. It’s a fatigue thing. They were maybe working 14 hours and getting a bit of rest.”
There were four on-farm, farm-related deaths in Ontario last year, the lowest number ever recorded and down from 10 the year before.
Anderson believes 2016 is a blip as there were no fatalities in grain bins or silos and zero ATV-related deaths. Historically, most fatalities occur during planting and harvest but no deaths were recorded last year during those periods. Not including peak work periods, a 2013 U.S. Farm Journal survey of 1,600 farmers found that 56 per cent of farmers work 10 to 14 hours a day, while 17 per cent work 15 hours or more.
Anderson also believes the nice weather during planting and harvest meant farmers didn’t need to hire extra employees that may not have been familiar with the farm equipment. He also credits farmers who work with a buddy system. If a farmer has to check in with a loved one every hour, a missed call could signal something is wrong. That means medical help can get there faster to treat the farmer before it is too late, he said.
The number of farm deaths has declined every year since 2013. There were 19 deaths in 2013. The four-year average is 11.
The current trend is a dramatic decrease from the average of 29 deaths per year in Ontario from 1990 to 2008.
Nationwide, there was an average 117 Canadian farm deaths a year from 1990 to 2000, according to the Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting. That average decreased to 86 from 2001 to 2012 and dropped to a 23-year low of 60 in 2012.
There were no tractor roll-over fatalities in Ontario in 2016, which are historically the most common on-farm fatalities.
Four fatalities of 2016
Jan. 30: Alvin Runnalls, 77, at Winchester died when a tree he was cutting fell on him.
Feb. 20: A 16-year-old boy at Woolwich in Western Ontario died after a barn door, being raised by a piece of farm machinery, fell down and struck the boy.
June 15: A 22-year-old Saugeen Township man in Western Ontario died when he was struck by the loader bucket of a tractor.
Sept. 20: Five-year old Marcus Dekker near Chatsworth in Grey County was one of several siblings riding in the bucket of a tractor driven by a 13-year-old sibling when Marcus fell out of the bucket and was struck by a packer implement being pulled by the tractor.