Study: Older Farmers at Risk

July 9, 2007
A Canadian study analyzing 11 calendar years of agricultural fatality data from 1990 to 2000 has found that male farmers over the age of 60 have a higher risk of dying on the job than younger farmers.

According to the Canadian Agricultural Injury Surveillance Program (CAISP) report, 91percent of those killed were male, a number that represents over a third of all the agricultural fatalities in Canada from 1990 to 2000. Older adults comprise only 13 percent of the national farm population.

The CAISP report, funded by the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association, found that the percentage of older persons killed due to contact with animals was 2.5 times higher (30.8 percent) than for those aged 15 to 59 (12.1 percent). The difference in the incidence of machine-related falls between the younger and older age groups was even larger. The percentage of older persons who died because of falls from moving machines (10.5 percent) was 2.8 times greater than the percentage of those aged 15 to 59 killed by that injury mechanism (3.7 percent).

“The study of agricultural injuries by CAISP over 15 years makes it clear that older farmers experience a substantially increased risk for fatal injury than younger farmers,” said Dr. Rob Brison, co-director of CAISP. “The CAISP study examines serious injuries that resulted in death. It is the risk for these serious injuries that older farmers are most exposed to.”

“Older farmers may have limitations in reaction times, weakened muscular strength or other health conditions such as arthritis that impact mobility,” said Dr. Don Voaklander, co-author of the report. “Based on the data, prevention programs directed at older farmers should focus on the recognition that age-related change impacts an older farmer’s ability to conduct typical work-related agricultural tasks. Of particular note are machinery and animal-related activities where balance and quick reaction time enhance a person’s ability to avoid hazards.”

The CAISP report – “Agricultural Fatalities in Canada 1990-2000: Focus on
Older Farmers and Workers” – is available on the CAISP Web site.

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