Farm and tractor-related fatalities in children in South Australia

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


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.


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).


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.

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