Agricultural fatalities in Arkansas have declined over the last two and a half years, says Gary Huitink, an engineer with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.

Huitink said, “2003 may be one of the safest in many years for agricultural endeavors.” He said total fatalities have dropped from 18 in 2000 to 14 in 2001, 17 in 2002 and nine so far in 2003.

The National Safety Council considers agriculture the second most dangerous occupation after construction.

Data collected over the last decade show recent reductions in fatalities in logging, electrocution, vehicle run-overs, miscellaneous and aerial accidents, Huitink said.

“Maintaining a good preventative farm-wide emphasis on equipment roll-over and run-over hazards has been an effective factor in reducing deaths.”

Traffic accidents involving farm equipment remain a concern. Huitink said national figures show more farm machinery involved in traffic accidents, and “unfortunately, that may be true in Arkansas as well.” Three persons were killed in 2000 in such accidents, compared to one in 2001, five in 2002 and two so far this year.

The leading cause of death in Huitink's records is ATV accidents. Deaths range from 14 in 2001 to 10 so far this year.

“ATV injuries are a growing concern in Arkansas. Injured victims this year include two girls, aged 6 and 7, and two boys, 4 and 5. ATVs should not be operated by persons under 12, nor should they be operated on roads. Helmets should be worn by every driver, even though they're not legally required.”

He said ATVs are powerful machines, and riders can quickly get into trouble if they don't operate them safely and remain vigilant for possible trouble.

Huitink noted that the information he's collected indicates that agricultural accidents can happen to anyone regardless of age and sex. This year, accidents involved adults from 20 to 75 years old, including one female.

He said planting and harvest seasons are busy times of year for farmers and that's when they should exercise more caution. He said accidents are most likely to occur when farmers get tired and overlook safety.

He urged producers to install roll-over protective devices on their tractors, use seat belts and not allow riders on tractors. Never start a vehicle by shorting across the starter. Take time to think through your task before actually starting.

Planning your work carefully and modifying your approach in order to do it safely, will save time and avoid severe injury. Don't remove or modify safety devices on farm equipment.

To prevent traffic collisions with farm machinery use road escorts, check that lighting is adequate for night traffic and make sure that slow moving vehicle (SMV) signs are easily visible. If possible, avoid moving agricultural equipment on the road during periods of heavy traffic.

“These statistics should encourage everyone in agriculture to redouble their effort to work in a safe manner. Three months are left this year, so if each of us Arkansans avoids common hazards, the year may end with fewer fatalities than last year.”

For more information, go to www.aragriculture.org/agengineering/farmsafety/agricultural_hazards.asp or contact your county Extension agent. The Cooperative Extension Service is a part of the UA Division of Agriculture.


Lamar James is an Extension communications specialist with the University of Arkansas.