Rancher Falls From Haystack in Wyoming

Wyoming FACE 94WY002


A 61 year old male died from injuries suffered when he fell from a haystack while working with a hay crew in a rural area. Co-workers attempted resuscitation procedures. When the ambulance arrived, attendants were told that the victim had suffered a heart attack while lifting a hay-bale. After arriving at the hospital, they found that the victim had fallen 10 to 12 feet from the top of a haystack, and that co-workers had picked him up and propped him against a hay bale to attempt resuscitation. He was found to have spinal and rib injuries, combined with anoxic encephalopathy and hypothermia. After admission to ICU and consultation with the family, the victim was taken off the respirator and survived several hours, expiring approximately 14 hours after the incident occurred.

Employers may be able to minimize the potential for occurrence of this type of incident through the following precautions:

  • Discourage farm workers from accepting help with farm work from someone who has been drinking
  • Provide CPR or, at a minimum, basic First Aid training to farm and ranch operators and employees.


On a Saturday afternoon, October 9, 1993 a rancher was working with a hay crew when he fell from a haystack. The victim was from a nearby ranch and was helping to unload bales of hay to feed the cattle prior to leaving for the mountains for a hunting trip. He apparently fell a distance of 10 to 12 feet, landing on the ground. Co-workers tried to resuscitate him, after lifting him and propping him against a hay bale. The victim was 61 years of age, well-muscled, and in apparent good health.


Through a reciprocal notification agreement with the Director of the Occupational Safety and Health Division of the Department of Employment, the WY- Wyoming FACE Project was notified of the incident. Due to regulations governing OSHA investigations, Wyoming OSHA had determined to not investigate the incident.

Investigation showed that the victim’s co-workers had called for emergency services after having tried to revive the victim, and that ambulance personnel had been told that the victim was lifting a hay bale when he collapsed and fell over, presumably the result of a heart attack. He had been moved from his original position and placed on a sleeping bag. Ambulance personnel used the bag as a lift, and loaded him on an ambulance backboard for transport to the hospital.

The victim was revived enroute to the point of having a rapid pulse and a blood pressure of 107 systolic with no respirations. At the hospital, ambulance personnel learned that he had fallen from a haystack, approximately 10 to 12 feet high. Hospital x-rays then confirmed that the victim had a C-spine injury with fractures through C-q, C-w & C-3. He was kept on a respirator through part of the night and then, following consultation with the family, was taken off the respirator and allowed to breathe on his own.

Local officials related that the victim had a high BAC reading and was known as a heavy drinker. Clinical tests confirmed a level of .20 BAC (twice the level for presumption of intoxication).


The Medical Examiner listed the cause of death as spinal cord injury due to neck fracture.


This incident could have been prevented by recognition of the limitations of the victim, resulting from his inebriated condition. Farm workers who have spent a lifetime ranching or farming often do not concern themselves with the dangers that are an integral part of farm and ranch life. Due to hardships that would be encountered if private landowners were required to meet the rigid standards imposed on other businesses to insure employee safety, farm and ranch owners are not protected from their own actions to the degree that non-farm workers might be. Farm employees are less protected by OSHA regulations than are employees of business and industry, and therefore need to take special precautions to self-regulate safety within farm/ranch environments. Safety regulations and supervisory oversight should prohibit workers from working in an inebriated condition. Without the protection of such regulatory oversight in this setting, it becomes crucial for the employer and the workers themselves to guard against unsafe practices.


The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Division of Safety Research (DSR), performs Fatal Accident Circumstances and Epidemiology ( Wyoming FACE ) investigations when a participating state reports an occupational fatality and requests technical assistance. The goal of these evaluations 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.

States participating in this study include: Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.

NIOSH Funded/State-based Wyoming FACE Projects providing surveillance and intervention capabilities to show a measurable reduction in workplace fatalities include: Alaska, California, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Additional information regarding this report is available from:

Wyoming Occupational Fatality Analysis Program
522 Hathaway Building – 2300 Capitol Avenue
Cheyenne, WY 82002
(307) 777-5439

Please use information listed on the Contact Sheet on the NIOSH FACE web site to 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