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Assessing Senior Farmers’ Perceptions of Tractor and Machinery-related Hazards

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  . Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health 1(3):199-214. (doi: 10.13031/2013.19464) @1995
Authors:   S. D.Whitman, W. E. Field
Keywords:   Agricultural safety, Risk, Behavior,Tractor fatalities, Aged operators

Agricultural injury data over the last 25 years have consistently shown a high proportion of cases involving senior farmers and agricultural workers. Farm tractors are the most commonly reported causal agent for fatalities in this population. Understanding of the specific causal factors associated with this apparent risk, however, remains very limited, and to date, the safety and health profession’s response has not been commensurate with the need. In order to develop effective safety programs designed to impact a specific population or audience, it is necessary to conduct formative research to gain a thorough understanding of the beliefs, perceptions, attitudes, and influences of the people within that population. The research discussed in this article represents the formative, or pre-production, component of current efforts to develop safety programs to reduce tractor and machinery-related injuries among senior (age 60 and older) farm and ranch operators and agricultural workers.

This research utilized a national survey (n = 295) to examine senior farmers’ perceptions of tractor and machinery-related risks, as well as safety-related beliefs, major safety influences, and safety information preferences. Senior farmers’ ratings of tractor-related risks reflected perceptions that such hazards were only moderately risky in relation to other farm hazards, though 83% of this group agreed tractor-related injuries are generally severe. Findings indicated that senior farmers may undervalue the benefit of ROPS. While 88% agreed ROPS are effective in preventing injuries, only 42% of the senior farmers reported having ROPS on their primary tractors. Furthermore, only 26% believed that the protective benefits provided by ROPS outweighed the costs and inconvenience of installing and using them. This article concludes with a brief discussion of the implications of risk perceptions and personal beliefs for the development of injury intervention programs for the senior farm population.

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