By Connor Lynch
On-farm, farm-related fatalities in Ontario hit a new low last year.
According to reports gathered by Farmers Forum and the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association, there were three on-farm, farm-related fatal accidents in Ontario in 2019. None were in Eastern Ontario.
That’s down from nine in 2018, 10 in 2017, and below the former historic low of four in 2016. One farmer died in an on-farm, farm-related accident in Eastern Ontario in 2018. There was also only one Eastern Ontario on-farm fatality in 2017 and in 2016.
Fatal accidents on the farm in Ontario have been on the decline for years, with recent numbers well down from the 29 on average per year between 1990 and 2008. A Globe and Mail investigation in 2017 found that across Canada, farming was the third most lethal profession per capita.
Commercial fishing and forestry were first and second, respectively.
Agricultural Health and Safety Specialist with the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association, Rob Gobeil, said that Ontario’s historic low is likely a bit of a fluke, and there’s still lots of work to be done in making farms safer.
While fatalities have been slowly creeping downwards, it’s likely not from advancing technologies, which create hazards as often as they remove them, Gobeil said. Larger machines are more likely to crush you if they fall over and have more blind spots. Similarly, faster modern grain augurs run for less time, reducing the risk of falling in, but a faster augur will bury you faster, increasing the hazard if you do fall in.
Canada saw some polarizing events in 2019, including the conviction of a farmer in the 2018 death of his son. But as a result, more people are talking about farm safety, “which can only be a good thing,” he said.
Ontario’s three on-farm, farm-related fatalities last year included:
• A four-year-old boy killed south of Mt. Forest, in Wellington County, on June 24. He was riding in a dump trailer being pulled by a tractor. A farm employee was driving the tractor. The boy fell out and into the path of one of the tractor tires.
• 27-year-old Alex Durham, of Amherstburg, in Western Ontario, was killed July 9 while baling hay for a horse farm in Essex County. He was found at 9:30 p.m. beneath the rear tire of the tractor.
• A 51-year-old man died after a collision between a farm tractor and a sedan on Nov. 20 on a farm. Few details were released, but the incident occurred on a farm in Simcoe County.
One Eastern Ontario farmer was, however, killed in an off-farm highway accident while working.
George St-Pierre, a 63-year-old farmer from the Russell area, was killed after getting off his tractor to fix a mechanical problem. He was struck and killed by a driver whose line of sight was obscured by a small hill. Charges were not laid.