Farm and tractor-related fatalities in children in South Australia

J Paediatr Child Health. 1998 Apr;34(2):139-41. doi: 10.1046/j.1440-1754.1998.00177.x.


Objective: To analyse the circumstances surrounding farm and tractor-related childhood fatalities in South Australia, to identify potentially dangerous situations and to delineate prevention strategies.

Methods: A retrospective search of files was conducted at the Women's and Children's Hospital Department of Histopathology from 1981 to 1996, and the State Coroner's Office from 1988 to 1996.

Results: Fifteen fatalities were identified comprising 11 boys and four girls (age range, 2 years 11 months to 13 years; average, 6 years). Activities prior to death included riding on a tractor/trailer (n=8); playing near a field grain storage bin (n=2); playing near machinery (n=2); sleeping in a car near a burn off (n=1); walking around a dam (n=1) and riding as a passenger on a motorbike (n=1). Causes of death included multiple skull fractures and cerebral damage (n=11), asphyxia (n=2), drowning (n=1) and incineration (n=1).

Conclusions: The most dangerous activity involved children riding unrestrained on tractors; falls resulted in extensive injuries from tractor rear wheels or towed machinery. Allowing children on farms to ride on tractors or machinery only if there is a safe seat with a restraining harness would substantially reduce the number of fatal farm-related childhood injuries in South Australia.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents / mortality*
  • Accidents / statistics & numerical data
  • Adolescent
  • Agriculture*
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Off-Road Motor Vehicles*
  • Retrospective Studies