Farmer Fell Off Wagon Tongue And Was Run Over By Corn-filled Wagon

FACE 91WI00701


A 40 year old white female farm worker fell and was run over while helping her husband switch corn wagons. Conditions were dry, it was sunny and late afternoon when the incident occurred. The two had met on a county trunk road and attempted to switch wagons on a grade on the side of the roadway (she hooks the loaded corn wagon to her pickup truck and takes it to the drier, he hooks the empty wagon to his tractor and returns to the field to harvest the corn). The wagon full of corn (weight approximately 12,000 pounds) had been blocked and the tractor unhooked. The wagon full of corn which had not yet been hooked to the pick up truck began to roll forward. The female worker jumped onto the wagon tongue apparently in an attempt to stop the wagon. The wagon rolled 54 feet, the tongue hit the shoulder of the road. Apparently this abrupt stop provided sufficient force to cause the victim to fall off. At this point she was run over by the wagon wheel. The Wisconsin FACE investigator concluded that, in order to prevent similar occurrences, employers should:

  • Conduct a job site survey to identify potential hazards. Once identified, remove hazards. When removal is not possible, implement appropriate control measures.
  • Train workers in recognition and control of safety hazards on the farm.
  • Address worker safety in the planning phase of all projects.
  • Through written policy and practice, strictly prohibit jumping on moving machinery.


On October 17, 1991, a 40 year-old female sustained fatal crushing injuries when she fell from the tongue of a corn filled wagon and was run over. The FACE investigator was notified of the fatality by the Wisconsin Department of Labor and Human Relations via their news clipping service 11/11/91. The investigation was initiated by the WI FACE investigator on February 20, 1992. A death certificate, news clippings, and reports from the sheriff’s department and the coroner’s office were obtained. Photographs include the vehicles involved and the incident site. The sheriff’s department investigator described what had happened the day of the incident and accompanied the FACE investigator to the roadway where the incident occurred.

The worker and her husband ran the farm with no employees. The University of Wisconsin Department of Agricultural Engineering was asked to review the factors that lead to this death with the FACE director and provide assistance with developing prevention strategies.


On October 17, 1991 at approximately 5:30 PM, the female worker was working with her husband switching wagons when the incident occurred. While in the process of switching wagons at the side of a roadway and on a slight incline, the wagon full of corn began to roll down the road. Apparently the victim jumped on the tongue of the wagon and traveled about 54 feet according to the scratch mark left by the tongue in the pavement. After traveling 54 feet, the tongue then hit the soft shoulder causing the victim to fall off the tongue to the ground where she was run over by the wheel. Given that the day was dry and sunny, weather was not considered a factor in the incident. The time of day may have been a factor as the lateness of the day may have prompted the farmer to leave the field and meet his wife on the roadway for the exchange. Exchanges done earlier in the day were done in the field according to the sheriff’s department investigator.

The victim was unconscious when police arrived. Efforts were made to clear the victim’s airway but given the victim’s severe pelvic and abdominal injuries, a decision was made not to move her until the ambulance arrived for transport to an area hospital. The victim was transported via helicopter from the area hospital to a larger hospital where she was pronounced dead approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes after the incident.


Massive internal injuries.


Recommendation #1: Employers should conduct a job site survey to identify potential hazards. Once identified, remove hazards. When removal is not possible, implement appropriate control measures.

Discussion: The site of the incident, a sloped highway, was a hazard. The wagon apparently was not equipped with a brake and the blocks used under the wheels were not sufficient. While wagons should be equipped with brakes and blocks should be used under wheels, a jobsite survey could have identified a flat field as the more appropriate site for switching wagons.

Recommendation #2: Training in recognition and control of hazards is an ongoing need for farmers and those assisting in the farm work.

Discussion: Training workers to recognize hazards may have alerted the victim to the hazard of jumping on the tongue of a moving wagon.

Recommendation #3: Employers should address worker safety in the planning phase of all projects.

Discussion: Planning the work with worker safety in mind may have caused an alteration in the plan with the wagon switch occurring in a flat area of the field. Planning may have addressed the amount of work possible in a given amount of time and the workers could have ended the work earlier so that it did not cause them to rush to get the work done before the evening milking schedule.

Recommendation #4: Through written policy and practice, strictly prohibit jumping on moving machinery.

Discussion: Training workers to understand the hazards associated with moving machinery and the force that moving loads create may have helped this worker understand both the danger as well as the futility of jumping on this loaded wagon in an effort to stop it.


FACE 91WI00701

Staff members of the FACE Project of the Wisconsin Division of Health, Bureau of Public Health, perform FACE investigations when there is a work-related fatal fall, electrocution, or enclosed/confined space death reported. The goal of these investigations is to prevent fatal work injuries in the future by studying: the working environment, the worker, the task the worker was performing, the tools the worker was using, the energy exchange resulting in fatal injury and the role of management in controlling how these factors interact.

To contact Wisconsin State FACE program personnel regarding State-based FACE reports, please use information listed on the Contact Sheet on the NIOSH FACE web site. Please contact In-house FACE program personnel regarding In-house FACE reports and to gain assistance when State-FACE program personnel cannot be reached.

Page last reviewed: November 18, 2015