On January 4th, a tractor accident killed one man and hospitalized another in Durango, Iowa. The victims were performing maintenance on the tractor when it slipped into gear without warning. Cletus Klein, 84, was run over by the out-of-control tractor, and died on the scene. His son, 53-year-old Randy Klein, survived being run over and was taken to an Iowa City hospital.
Less than a month before on December 16, a tractor rolled over at an Iowan farm. The tractor caught fire and nearly killed two men. The driver, Richard Kreinbring, survived with broken ribs. A nearby witness and close friend risked the flames to pull Kreinbring free of the burning tractor.
Tractor accident is a common cause of farm death
The agricultural industry is considered one of the most hazardous to work in. Field conditions are harsh at various times of the year. Modern farm vehicles consist of many dangerous moving parts that can maim anyone who is too close. However, according to the CDC a rollover tractor accident is considered the most common cause of death on a farm.
These deaths are considered easily preventable. With the use of a special Roll-Over Protective Structure, a tractor driver can be protected in the event of a rollover.
Unfortunately, as the recent accidents in Iowa demonstrate, there still remain major safety concerns. Cletus Klein died when his tractor slipped into gear on its own during maintenance. In the December rollover, Richard Kreinbring survived the initial accident, but almost did not survive the ensuing fire.
Californian migrant workers at great risk
California is one of the most important agricultural states in the country. It employs a massive workforce to its fields every day. Many of these workers are Mexican, coming in for seasonable labor.
Modern equipment is equipped with warning labels in multiple languages. However, many farm tractors have been in service for decades. Their warnings and instructions are often only printed in English. Many migrant workers are limited to Spanish, and very basic English. They are often poorly trained on equipment, and poor training can lead to accident.
Safety requires training and attention
The other major factor in a tractor accident is distraction. Difficult or uneven terrain can lead to a rollover. Pulling a load can also disrupt the tractor’s balance. A driver that is paying attention can minimize these risks, but distracted drivers will not notice a problem until it is too late. Training on new equipment can further minimize risks around a farm tractor, but attention is still key.
The agricultural business constantly stresses safety in the face of difficult work conditions. Sadly, tractor accidents still occur throughout the US despite modern advances in safety. Without a serious national effort to modernize all tractors, users of older equipment will remain at risk.