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

There’s still time to achieve a safer fall harvest this year among Minnesota farmers and ranchers.  One way is renewed focus on preventing what has contributed to fatalities in the past.  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 on an ATV helps keep them right side up. 

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) categorizes fatalities in production agriculture for each state using data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI)1.  There were 81 production agriculture deaths in Minnesota during the four-year period 2007-10; 2011 data is not yet published.  Minnesota experienced 14% of the 561 production agriculture deaths in the 7-state CS-CASH 2 region (ND, SD, NE, KS, MO, IA, and MN).  The following breakdown provides historical perspective (note the percentages) for production agriculture deaths in Minnesota based on pooled data for the four-year period. 

BLS CFOI Production Agriculture Fatalities, Minnesota 2007-10  

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

    43%        Transportation (35) – Events including collisions between farm equipment and motor vehicles (4) (see note below), non-collision events on the road (8) including tractor overturns, plus other overturns not on the roadway (12), and non-highway non-collision falls and struck by events (4) 

NOTE:  According to data from the Farm Equipment – Motor Vehicle Crash Prevention Conference website (agsafetyandhealthnet.org/femvcpc) 3, there were 569 such collisions between farm equipment and motor vehicles in Minnesota resulting in 274 injuries and 12 deaths over the five-year period 2005-2009. 

   43%        Contact with Objects and Equipment (35) – Sample events include being struck by equipment or objects (15), caught in it (9), or crushed in collapsing materials (11

   8%       Assaults and Violent Acts (6) – Attacked by an animal (6), such as a bull 

   4%       Falls (3) to a lower level (3

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 five year’s press clippings for Minnesota during the 3-month Sep-Oct-Nov harvest period identified 46 deaths4

  • 27 transportation:  Tractor overturns in field or farmstead (13) including 4 carrying front-end loads, 3 while mowing, and 1 tugging equipment mired in mud;  Collision between farm truck and train or motor vehicle (4);  motor vehicle rear-ended or side-swiped equipment behind a tractor (4);  ATVs working (3)
  • 6 engulfments:  Engulfments occurred inside bins (4) or while loading or unloading trailers (2)
  • 6 struck by objects or equipment:  Equipment tipped or parts fell (3);  moving machinery or objects entangled (2);  chain broke and recoiled while jerking mired machine (1)
  • 3 other:  Scaffold failed painting barn;  fell, wedged partway down silo ladder chute;  overcome in tractor cab while fighting spreading grass fire 


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:  an 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. 

Staying out of grain that can shift or flow is high on the list of vital precautions.  Entry into bins should be planned to include proper hardware and attendants.  

But, safe operating practices do not end with these few.  Among others are keeping extra riders off equipment to help prevent run over incidents and stopping equipment, 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 at least before the use or harvest season. 


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

Grain Handling Safety –See “The Dangers of Flowing Grain” by W E Field and “Caught in the Grain” by G G Maher.  View a “Grain Bin Safety Video”.

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

Rollover protection – See “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 – See your local truck dealer, service or repair center.

Need more information?  Contact CS-CASH at (402-559-4998) or call your local Cooperative Extension Service office.  Access the National Agricultural Safety Database.  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  (Farm Equipment – Motor Vehicle Crash Prevention Conference) Composite data (excerpts).  Available here.

 4FAIMS – Farm and Agricultural Injury Monitoring Service (press clippings) is a current project of the UNMC CS-CASH funded by CDC National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health under agreement 5U54OH010162-02.   Prior press clippings data for 2007-2010 as captured and reported by GPCAH (Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health).  The GPCAH is a federally-funded Center at the University of Iowa 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, current part-time Program Manager and former Associate Director for the Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health, and retired product safety engineer for Deere & Company.

2 thoughts on “‘SUM’THINGS UP – MINNESOTA Fall Harvest-Time Injuries

  1. These are quite a few incidents.

    All workers should wear proper protective equipment and receive proper safety instructions beforehand.

    I think all these unfortunate events could have been easily averted.

  2. But, safe operating practices do not end with these few. Among others are keeping extra riders off equipment to help prevent run over incidents and stopping equipment, disengaging all power!!

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