Matter of Seconds: Injury and death on America's farms

We all need to eat. Our lives depend upon it. Yet, each day hundreds of thousands on the first line of making sure we have food put their own lives at risk for our sustenance. One slip and their lives can be changed forever, or worse, in a matter of seconds.

The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism and The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting take a collaborative look at farm injuries in the top two corn-producing states in the country.

Recent Stories

A Second Chance: After life-changing injury, farmer-turned-researcher now teaches about agricultural dangers

Chip Petrea stands near a modified tractor after his accident.

In 1978, Robert "Chip" Petrea was injured while baling hay near his family's dairy farm located just outside Iuka, Ill. The injury resulted in double-above the knee amputations for Petrea. Less than a year removed from the amputations, Petrea began to farm again. Today, he serves as a principal researcher for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. With a focus on agricultural safety and health, Petrea now helps prevent injuries such as his from happening to others. Continue Reading →

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Farm Safety Experts: New technologies that improve safety are here to stay

Mitchell Hinrichsen and John Pritchard, students at Iowa State University, pose with a prototype of their tractor rollover device.

New technologies could help protect farmers, who work in the most deadly occupation in Iowa. Farm fatalities represent more than 30 percent of all occupational fatalities in the state, according to data from the Iowa Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation program. Lauren Mills from Iowa Watch takes a look at new devices. Continue Reading →

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Farm Safety Trainers: Consistent Advice For Preventing Grain Bin Fatalities Is Lacking

The grain facility in Sidney, Ill., on Tuesday, August 13, 2013.

Grain bins, a common sight for anyone traveling through Iowa and other corn belt states, are a source of contention for agriculture safety specialists. Lack of research means specialists are unable to provide consistent advice to farmers about working in the storage bins. The safety experts are “dropping the ball,” said LaMar Grafft, a rural health and safety specialist. Continue Reading →

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Tougher farm safety regulation hard to come by in Iowa

A dummy placed beneath a rolled over tractor gives Eastern Iowa firefighters a chance to practice their response in situations involving a farmer. This photo is from Tractor Rollover Extrication Training put on by the Rural Health and Safety Clinic of Greater Johnson County in Iowa on Aug. 3 at the Johnson County Extension Building in Iowa City, Iowa.

Iowa’s small farms are on their own when it comes to work safety, even though farmers suffer more fatal occupational injuries than any other kind of worker in the state.

Limited Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforcement and coverage favors large farms, leaving the rest on an honors system in which dangerous farm practices fly under the radar until a serious, and often fatal, injury occurs. Continue Reading →

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OSHA educates more than it enforces

Firefighters prepare their harnesses during grain bin rescue training at the Danville Bunge facility on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is responsible for overseeing workplace safety, but the organization is handicapped when it comes to dealing with small farms and agriculture sites that handle grain.

OSHA’s federal guidelines prohibit it from enforcing regulations through inspections on both family farms and farms that employ fewer than 10 workers. Consequently, many places left vulnerable to grain-bin accidents are neglected. Continue Reading →

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OSHA aims to prevent ‘needless deaths’

Firefighters practice placing a rescue tube during grain bin rescue training at the Danville Bunge facility on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013.

The deadliest year for grain-bin workers on record was 2010, when at least 26 workers died throughout the country, according to grain-bin entrapment data from Purdue University. There were more than 50 total incidents that year. The frequency of accidents was so alarming that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s assistant secretary of labor, David Michaels, sent a letter to thousands of grain storage facility operators throughout the United States. Continue Reading →

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