Central States Center for Agricultural Safety & Health

‘SUM’THINGS UP – NEBRASKA Fall Harvest-Time Injuries

There’s still time for a safer fall harvest among Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers this year.  One way is a renewed focus on preventing what has contributed to fatalities in the past, whether they occur over the course of the year or during fall harvest times.  Like many other fatal events, preventing deaths in production agriculture often involves hardware and behavior.  For example, rollover protection is the hardware to have if your tractor overturns; following safe operating practices every time you get on an ATV helps keep them right side up.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) categorizes the fatalities in production agriculture for each state using data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI)1.  There were 74 such deaths in Nebraska over the four-year period 2007-10, the most recent year of published data:  13% of 561 such deaths in the 7-state CS-CASH 2 region (ND, SD, NE, KS, MO, IA, and MN) over the same period according to a summary email from CFOI staff.  The following breakdown provides an annual profile (see percentages) for production agriculture deaths in Nebraska based on the pooled data for the four-year period.

BLS CFOI Production Agriculture Fatalities, Nebraska 2007-10

(Numbers in parentheses (#) in the list below are the CFOI count of fatalities for Nebraska over the four-year period.)

43%        Transportation (32) – Events including collisions between farm equipment and motor vehicles (4) (see note below), non-collision events on the road (6) including tractor overturns, and other overturns not on the roadway (13)
NOTE:  According to data from the Farm Equipment – Motor Vehicle Crash Prevention Conference website (agsafetyandhealthnet.org/femvcpc) 3, there were 376 such collisions in Nebraska resulting in 202 injuries and 8 deaths over the five-year period 2005-2009. 

30%        Contact with Objects and Equipment (22) – Sample events include being struck by equipment (9), caught in it (8), or crushed in collapsing materials (5)

8%       Assaults and Violent Acts (6) – Includes being attacked by an animal (4), such as a bull

8%       Exposure to Harmful Substances or Environments (6), e.g., contact with electricity (3)

7%       Falls (5), mainly to a lower level (4)

4%       Fire and Explosion (3), including forest, brush or other outdoor fires

Newspaper press clippings do not report on all of these fatal events, but when they do they add to an understanding that is not presented in the numbers alone.  A review of Farm and Agricultural Injury Monitoring Service (FAIMS)4 press clippings from Nebraska compiled by the Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health (GPCAH)5 2007-Oct2011 and CS-CASH for Oct2011-Nov2011 for the fall harvest months (September through November) identified press clippings for the following 15 deaths:

  • 6 road transport:  Head-on collision between a tractor and motor vehicle;  motor vehicle rear-ended equipment behind a tractor (2);  farm truck crash, blew through intersection (2) ;  high-speed van swerved then collided with a combine header in transport stopped at intersection
  • 4 run over:  Backed over by tractor with engine not running;  working on truck duals when co-worker moved truck;  run over by forage harvester;  unspecified vehicle pinned operator who had exited to open farm gate
  • 1 entanglement:  Operator climbed inside hay grinder while it was running
  • 1 engulfment:  Entrapped and engulfed inside bin while unloading corn into truck
  • 1 overturn:  ATV driven off embankment overturned while checking cattle
  • 2 other:  Skid steer went over bank into creek;  unspecified event involving a youth in farm shop


Road transport collision prevention includes functional lighting and marking:  the behavior part is turning lights on whenever on the road.  Of course, both equipment and motor vehicle operators must be alert, patient, and have what they are driving under control.

A hardware part of the increasing number of farm trucks on farm-to-market roads involves inspecting and ensuring brakes, lights, steering, etc., work:  a important behavior is traveling at a safe speed given conditions and the load.

Part of overturn injury prevention, especially with tractors, is getting a rollover protective structure (ROPS) installed and using the seatbelt that comes with it:  a behavior component is to prefer not to use tractors without ROPS, especially those with tricycle front wheels and/or front-end loaders, to perform tasks where they are more likely to overturn.

Run over prevention involves maintenance and proper functioning of the starting system and interlocks:  a behavioral contribution is always starting equipment from the operator station and never starting it at the starter or ignition while standing on the ground.

Safe operating practices do not end with these.  Among others are keeping extra riders off equipment to help prevent run over incidents and stopping it, disengaging all power, before leaving it or approaching moving machinery parts to help prevent both run over incidents and entanglements.  Review the operator’s manual for a complete presentation of how to use each piece of machinery safely before the use season or more often.


Lighting and marking – Visit a local equipment dealer.  Visit  The Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health.

Rollover protection – View “Your Guide to Affordable Retrofit ROPS for Agricultural Tractors”.  Visit your local agricultural tractor dealer or call your local cooperative extension service office.  Contact your insurance provider:  they may have a ROPS retrofit incentive.

Truck inspection – View Nebraska DMV official site or call your local truck service department.

ATV safety – Contact your local ATV dealer for safety training and personal protective equipment.  Visit the ATV Safety Institute website.

Want more information?  Access the National Agricultural Safety Database and see the National Safe Tractor and Machinery Operation Program task sheets.


1Dept. of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI).  Available here. Regional data provided in personal communications with author.

2CS-CASH (Central States – Center for Agricultural Safety and Health) at the University of Nebraska Medical Center is federally funded by CDC National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health under agreement 5U54OH010162-02.

3FEMVCPC  Composite data (excerpts). Available here

4FAIMS – Farm and Agricultural Injury Monitoring Service managed by M. D. Madsen as a project of the UNMC CS-CASH funded by CDC National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health under agreement 5U54OH010162-02.

5GPCAH (Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health) at the University of Iowa is a federally-funded Center sponsored by the CDC National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

About the author: 

Murray D. Madsen, MBA, is an independent consultant to CS-CASH at UNMC, part time Program Manager and former Associate Director for the Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health, and retired product safety engineer for Deere & Company.

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