INDIANAPOLIS — The 2012 Indiana Farm Fatality Summary showed a spike in farm-related deaths throughout the course of the year.

Purdue Extension safety specialist Bill Field noted that the recent number of farm-related fatalities was disheartening because that number had been declining in the previous three years.

While the 2012 summary listed 26 Hoosier fatalities related to farming accidents, Field lamented that the number actually could be higher.

He noted the records used by Purdue University’s Agricultural Safety and Health Program are not comprehensive because there is no system in place that requires the reporting of fatalities or injuries related to farming.

“Every year, we get information on incidents or accidents that occurred the previous year, even though its already late 2013,” he said.

Field noted that while the summary may show four to five incidents related to bulls or other livestock one year, there may be none the next year.

This past year, six of the farm fatalities were related to trees and accidents with falling limbs.

All of the data is broken down by age and gender. Citing the 6,000 farms operated by women throughout the state, Field said he rarely sees any females dying in farm accidents.

He said he believes this is related to an occupational misunderstanding because many of the women who own farms probably are over 80 years in age and rent out their land.

Another area that the report identifies is youth and those individuals over the age of 60 involved in farming.

“In the late ‘70s, a third of farm deaths were related to children,” Field said, adding he found that figure especially troubling when he joined Purdue’s staff around the same time period.

That is why he and those involved with Breaking New Ground have worked to get the message out about the potential dangers associated with young children and farming practices and encourage parents to get their kids involved in school events.

However, Field added that the most vulnerable person on a agriculture operation is not a child under the age of 16 – it is those individuals who are more than 60 years old.

He noted that he is not opposed to older people running farm equipment and performing other tasks on an active farming operation, but they just have to pay more attention to what they are doing since senses such as hearing and vision decrease with age.

More than half of the farm-related incidents Field mentioned involved tractors, and a majority of that equipment was in excess of 20 years in age.

“Very few people are scraping old tractors,” he said, adding that farmers instead are fixing up, restoring or adding on attachments such as mowers.

Problems can occur when operators, especially those who are a bit older, are mowing a field bank without the protection of a modern tractor, the safety specialist said.