Burn Injuries Can Bankrupt Farmers
Each year hundreds die or lose their livelihood from farm fires. Even a small fire can quickly burn out of control since many farms are not equipped to fight large fires. Because of the isolated area, firefights and other emergency personnel usually do not respond quickly. This leaves the farmer or farm worker to take on the blaze him or herself, and unfortunately, this is when many injuries occur. The cost of the care afterward can leave many farms bankrupt.
Burning trash, brush or grass is common in rural areas where trash pick-up is scarce. Gardens, fields, and ditches will also benefit from a controlled fire. One of the key causes of injury is the use of an accelerant, like gasoline, kerosene or diesel fuel. Researchers report 81% of hospital admissions related to trash and brush burning involved accelerant use, most predominantly gasoline. Gasoline is a flammable liquid and should not be used to ignite or manage a fire.
Explosions and fires can also occur spontaneously. Grain elevators, barns, hay fields, and other areas of farms are at high risk of catching fire, especially during droughts. Dry grain dust can have up to 50 times more chance of exploding than coal dust! Workers who don’t have adequate equipment to put out fires or safety training to avoid them may suffer serious burn injuries.
Research conducted at the University of Iowa found that most burn victims from a farm fire are men spanning 16 to 44 years of age. This doesn’t discount older farmers since nearly 20% of all burn patients were over the age of 65. This also denotes that many strong leaders of a farm cannot work for long periods after an injury.
Burn Injuries are Expensive
Being injured from a fire can be very costly. Burn victims typically require long hospital stays, multiple operations and expensive rehabilitative and reconstruction treatments. The costs of such treatments are extremely high. According to the National Group on Health, most burn injuries come with complications. With complications, the price of treatment goes up tremendously.
The main complications seen are:
- Disfigurement, scarring, or contracture, occurring in 66 percent of cases, add $28,000-35,000 to treatment costs.
- Psychological complications, occurring in 57 percent of cases, add $16,000-75,000 to treatment costs.
- Fragile skin or skin breakdown, occurring in 55 percent of cases, add $38,000-107,000 to treatment costs.
- Infections, including pneumonia, sepsis, and other organ failures from infection problems, occurring in 35 percent of cases, add $58,000-120,000 to treatment costs.
- Delayed wound healing or skin graft failure, occurring in 32 percent of cases, add $37,000-110,000 to treatment costs.
Fires and explosions are common and highly likely on farms, and if you are burned while on the job, it’s not your fault. If you have suffered a burn injury, if one of your family members has been burned or died on the farm due to a fire or explosion, or if you have lost wages due to a burn injury, you may be entitled to compensation—including payments over and above Worker’s Compensation. This will help cover the cost associated with recovering from burns.
The Farm Injury Resource Center offers free and confidential consultations to help farmers and farm workers get the assistance they need.