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April 27, 2016

On-the-job deaths in agriculture rise

An estimated 138 on-the-job deaths occurred in Michigan last year, with tractor-related deaths increasing, according to preliminary figures from an annual Michigan State University report.

The 2015 figure indicates a potential decrease from 143 confirmed deaths in 2014. The final total will not be determined, though, until the end of this year.

“Even though all indications point to a decline in on-the-job deaths for the year, which is good, we’ve noticed that fatalities in agriculture have increased, particularly related to the use of tractors,” said Kenneth Rosenman, who serves as the director of MSU's Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

The report indicated there were eight tractor-related deaths among farmers in 2015 compared to three in 2014 and four in 2013.

A hazard alert on working safely with tractors was also released today.

According to the Michigan Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation program, or MIFACE, both the agriculture and construction industries had the highest number of deaths, each at 25, followed by the transportation industry with 19 fatalities.

The program – administered by the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, part of the College of Human Medicine – investigates work-related deaths and seeks to identify ways to prevent them.

Some of the precautions farmers can take to decrease tractor-related accidents can include retrofitting older tractors with rollover protection bars, wearing a seat belt, maintaining the safety cover on the power take off shaft and properly blocking the tractor when performing maintenance under it.

“Also, farmers should not attempt to use tractors to pull out trees or stumps and should always shut the engine off when getting off the tractor,” Rosenman said. “This prevents someone from getting run over or can stop carbon monoxide poisoning if in an enclosed structure.”

The MIFACE data is being released as the nation gets ready to recognize Workers’ Memorial Day on April 28. Workers and public health professionals across the country pay tribute to those killed by work-related trauma – about 4,700 each year nationwide.

Another 60,000 U.S. workers are estimated to die each year from cancer, lung disease and other illnesses from work-related exposures.

A remembrance is being held in Negaunee, Michigan at 6 p.m. on Thursday, among other memorial events scheduled throughout the nation.

MIFACE is a research project of MSU funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. MSU works closely with the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration on the project.


By: Kenneth Rosenman

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