Farming remains No. 1 career killer in Manitoba

Farming remains at the top of Manitoba’s most dangerous career choices with more deaths over the past decade than any sector.

Three people in agriculture-related deaths so far in Manitoba this year

People being trapped or pinned by farm equipment is the number one killer in agriculture, according to the Canadian Agriculture Safety Association. (Massey Ferguson)

Farming remains at the top of Manitoba's most dangerous career choices with more deaths over the past decade than any sector.

According to the Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba, 48 deaths occurred in the agriculture sector between 2006 and 2015, far more than the transport sector, which saw 37 deaths over the same period and the construction sector with 36.

"These stats are really quite troubling when you look at them," said Dan Mazier, president of Manitoba's Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP). "It's been a concern all the way though."

According to the WCB, three deaths occurred in agriculture so far in Manitoba in 2016. A fourth, where a 74-year-old man died while checking his livestock on his ATV near Swan River in November, is still under investigation. 

Industry needs to catch up

Mazier said the industry needs to catch up on its growth.

"It sort of speaks to the fact that farming has evolved," he said. "It has grown in so many different ways and the machinery is just one of them."

"We need to modernize the way we train new people in to the industry."

According to the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association, people being trapped or pinned by equipment remains the No. 1 agricultural killer in Canada. Animal-related incidents, being struck by a non-machine object, falls, being struck by falling objects and drowning round out the list. 

But there is some good news. 

"There is overall a general downward tending in terms of farm fatalities across Canada," said Glen Blahey, a spokesperson with CASA. "We're seeing a downward trend in all age groups."

Age 60+ deaths significantly higher 

However, while down, the rate among the 60+ age group is significantly higher than the 15-59 age group, Blahey said. In 2012, the rate of 60+ agricultural related deaths was 22 per 100,000 people, Blahey said. The same year, the 15-59 age group was at 4 per 100,000.

Mazier called it a generational issue. With the average age of farmers in Manitoba at 55-years-old, he said there was pushback among some farmers when Workplace Health and Safety brought agriculture into the fold of industries it regulates and when KAP began introducing safety workshops. 

"They [workplace health and safety officers] were asking farmers things that they never even did before and that was a problem," Mazier said. "We recognized there was a need."

"This is generational change," he added. "This is something that is going to take a long time to evolve."

Safety training introduced 

He said safety courses have been introduced at the post-secondary level in an effort to train new farmers and others in the agriculture sector from the start. KAP also offers on-farm consultations that teach farmers how to prepare their own safety plans. 

"We're the only category that has children killed on a workplace, on a farm, and that's because of the nature of our businesses," he added, saying he personally knows of two farmers who have died in his lifetime. "Is that really acceptable for 2016?"

However he believes the message is slowly getting across. KAP and Safe Work Manitoba just announced a new partnership to enhance farm safety. 

"I think the awareness is there," he said. "That's step one."

"Mining was a very dangerous industry and it is one of the safest industries today," Mazier added. "I think we can do the same in agriculture, in fact we can do better."