Farming More Dangerous Than Mining in Virginia, Data Shows

February 21, 2006

Coal mining, logging, firefighting represent just a handful of the dozens of jobs that spring to mind when it comes to dangerous work.

Farming isn’t often one of them.

But data shows agriculture is outpacing mining as the most deadly occupation in the United States, and the trend is thriving in Virginia.

Agriculture accounted for 30.1 fatalities per 100,000 workers in the U.S. in 2004, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Virginia’s farm-related deaths last year dropped three from the year before, according to Farm Bureau safety manager Bruce Stone.

Still, unofficial records collected by the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation show 15 people died doing farm work last year. In comparison, no coal miners were killed on the job in Virginia during that time.

Among the key causes of farm deaths are overturned tractors, according to statistics. Turnovers accounted for five of last year’s fatalities; four people were run over by tractors or other equipment, three were killed by equipment-related injuries, one by road accident and two by unspecified causes.

Stone has been compiling an unofficial record of Virginia farm fatalities since 1994. In the years since, about 199 people have died working on Virginia farms. That includes 83 who died in overturns.

The answer, he said, is the use of factory-built roll bars or cages and seat belts. The safeguards offer a 95 percent or higher survival rate should a flip occur, he said.

But about half of Virginia’s tractors were manufactured before roll-over protection was available, explained Ron Saacke, who has been working with Stone.

Saacke said the Farm Bureau’s statistics, which are compiled from news and accident reports, are more accurate than government figures, since not every death may be reported to the government.

Still, he said both entities may not know the true death toll.

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