Chip Petrea stands near a modified tractor after his accident.

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

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.

Firefighters learn how to cut grain relief slots during grain-bin rescue training at the Danville Bunge facility on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013.

Expect no farm safety legislation this year in Iowa

Support from Iowa lawmakers for stricter farm safety regulation does not exist in their new legislative session. This is despite agriculture being Iowa’s deadliest occupation and limited Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforcement and coverage.

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

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.

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

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

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.

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.

Tougher farm safety regulation hard to come by in 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.

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

OSHA educates more than it enforces

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.

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

As deaths add up, farmers ‘walk the grain’ unprotected

In July, a 55-year-old man working for Premier Cooperative in Sidney, Ill., suffocated and died after becoming trapped in a grain bin filled with corn. His death marked the first grain-bin fatality for Illinois this year, but with expected large crop yields coming, more farmers may be at risk.

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

OSHA aims to prevent ‘needless deaths’

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.

Map: Farm-Related Accidents in Illinois

Each day, more than 200 agriculture workers suffer an injury severe enough to miss work, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Many farm laborers die because of injuries they received while working. Here’s a look at 800 fatalities in Illinois between 1986 and 2012.