The rate of childhood injury on farms and ranches has dropped by nearly 60 percent since 1998. Officials at the Marshfield Clinic point out this is an encouraging sign that research and public awareness efforts are making an impact on one of the nation's most hazardous industries.
The rate of childhood injuries fell 59 percent, from 16.6 to 6.8 per 1,000 farms from 1998 to 2009. This includes children who live on, visit, or are hired to work on farms. Injury rates for youth who live on farms also were down significantly, falling 47.3 percent. That's a reduction from 18.8 to 9.9 injuries per 1,000 farms. Meanwhile, the total number of injuries among youth 19 and under dropped from 37,774 to 15,011, while the number of youth living on farms dropped from 1.46 to 1.03 million.
Rate of injuries is the most meaningful method for judging progress, says Dr. Barbara Lee, director of the National Children's Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety. It takes into account the reduced number of farms and the fewer numbers of children who live on, visit, or are hired to work on farms.
Fatalities continue to run high at 21.3 per 100,000 full-time equivalents. That gives agriculture the second leading fatality rate among all industries. As a whole, there are only 3.6 fatalities per 100,000 youth when looking at all sectors. Of the leading sources of fatalities, 25 percent involved machinery, including tractors; 17 involved motor vehicles, including ATVs, and 16 percent were due to drowning.
While a great deal of progress has been made in improving safety for farm children, two areas are showing higher injury rates: all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and horses. An in-depth analysis of 2006 data revealed a mixture of work and nonwork exposures, including ATVs and horses that are contributing to higher injury rates among farm household children ages 10 to 15, relative to other age groups.