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University of Iowa News Release


Jan. 23, 2009

Farmers, motor vehicle operators top Iowa worker deaths

Eighty-seven workers died from traumatic injuries while at work in Iowa during 2008, according to the Iowa Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (IA FACE) program based in the University of Iowa College of Public Health.

That figure is above the average of 85 fatalities for the five-year period average, and it's likely to increase further with year-end data, said Murray Madsen, chief investigator for the IA FACE program.

"Of the fatalities we know about so far for 2008, a total of 28 farmers and farm workers lost their lives working on farms in Iowa, 20 motor vehicle operators died at work in crashes on Iowa roads, and 16 workers died at major construction or remodeling projects," Madsen said. "Farming and transportation industries continue to account for the bulk of Iowa worker fatalities."

Farmers make up about one-third of all traumatic work deaths in Iowa, a representation that remains consistent with data from 2006 and 2007. Analysis of 2008, compared to five-year data for 2003 through 2007, shows an increase in farm-related fatalities and decrease in motor vehicle losses, although identifying transportation-work deaths are often difficult, Madsen said.

Descriptions of all traumatic work deaths from 1995 through 2007 are available at

Funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the IA FACE program is part of a national network of state programs that collects information on worker fatalities. In Iowa, the program has a special focus on agricultural fatalities.

According to Madsen, the most common event (nine of the 28 deaths) leading to farm worker fatalities was the overturn of an older tractor not equipped with a rollover protective structure. The second most-common event occurred when farmers were crushed by loads or equipment that fell, such as a bale from a front-end loader, a three-point-hitch-mounted rotary cutter, or a combine header.

Madsen pointed out farm-related deaths occur too frequently, and after two years in a row at 25 percent below the 10-year average, 2008's farm fatality toll regressed to average. Madsen believes continued attention to issues of health and safety by farmers, community groups and organizations remains key to sustained improvement.

"The purpose of collecting information about worker fatalities is ultimately prevention," Madsen said. "We hope that by alerting workers and employers to common hazards in the workplace, we can prevent similar fatalities."

The IA FACE program is conducted by the UI Injury Prevention Research Center in collaboration with the Iowa Department of Public Health and State Medical Examiner's Office. The program works closely with teaching, research and outreach programs in agricultural safety and health of the UI College of Public Health, Iowa's Center for Agricultural Safety and Health, and the Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa College of Public Health Office of Communications, 4257 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa, 52242

MEDIA CONTACTS: Murray Madsen, IA FACE program, 319-335-4481,; Hannah Fletcher, UI College of Public Health, 319-384-4277,