HEALTH Department study shows agriculture state's most dangerous job

Monday, August 6th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Farming is the most dangerous job in Oklahoma, according to a report by the state Department of Health.

Over three years - 1998, 1999 and 2000 - farming-related deaths were the leading occupational fatalities in Oklahoma.

That makes being a farmer more dangerous than being a construction worker, truck driver, police officer or firefighter, said Elizabeth Kruger, an injury epidemiologist with the state Health Department who oversaw the study.

``Farmers and ranchers might perform the same risky task or procedure over and over for years and years, but they're still unsafe and present the potential for a serious problem,'' said Kruger, who also runs a small cattle ranch near Chandler with her husband.

``One day, they may just get caught.''

In Oklahoma, farming-related deaths represented 22 percent of all work-related deaths. Nationwide, they accounted for 13 percent of all work-related deaths.

The Health Department said most accidents happened between 4 and 8 p.m., when farmers may be fatigued from a long day of work.

From January 1998 to December 2000, 67 agriculture-related deaths were reported, an average of 22 deaths per year. Interstate truck drivers had an average of 53 deaths per year, while construction workers averaged 43 fatalities during the same period.

Of the agriculture-related deaths, 64 percent were related to crop farming, while 36 percent were related to ranching. Machinery-related deaths also were among the leading causes of fatalities.

The Health Department is sending the report to 500 agriculture instructors in high schools across the state. The department says young people should be taught farm safety.

``There's not a farm family out there that hasn't had an experience with injuries or near misses,'' said Ginger McLendon, coordinator of a Garfield County farm safety camp based in Enid.