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Fatalities associated with large round hay bales - Minnesota, 1994-1996.

Wahl GL; Brown M; Parker DL
JAMA J Am Med Assoc 1998 Mar; 279(9):647-649
Agriculture has one of the highest occupational fatality rates of all U.S. industries. Since the mid-1970s, traditional small-bale balers have gradually been replaced by large-bale balers in the agriculture industry. Expanded use of these balers has resulted in worker exposure to new hazards not present during handling of traditional small bales; the larger size of the bales increases the potential for serious injury or death while workers handle them. During 1994-1996, seven persons in Minnesota died in separate incidents that involved large round hay bales (i.e., cylindrical bales approximately 5 feet in length with flat ends, diameters of approximately 6 feet, and weights ranging from 750 to 1500 lbs). The Minnesota Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation program (MN FACE), a program sponsored by CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), was notified of these incidents by the Minnesota Extension Service, a newspaper clipping service, and/or by death -certificate review. This report describes three incidents that were reported to MN FACE during 1994-1996, summarizes national surveillance for bale-associated deaths during 1980-1995, and provides recommendations to prevent fatalities associated with large bales. In general, bales can be transported more safely by tractors equipped with rear attachments rather than front-end loaders. The likelihood of tractors rolling over sideways or tipping over backwards is reduced because bales are carried in a lower position than when hauled with front-end loaders. In addition, the rear tractor tires can accommodate the extra weight more effectively (1). Bales transported at the rear of a tractor do not block the operator's forward vision and generally do not interfere with rearward vision (2). When large bales cannot be transported by means of a rear attachment, front-end loader attachments specifically designed for transporting large bales should be used to prevent crush injuries. The potential for an unsecured bale to roll down the lift arms of a front-end loader and onto the tractor operator increases when the loader is raised (3). Loader attachments that securely hold bales include bale forks that have a tri-spear design, bale grapples with support arms that wrap around bales, and bale huggers that secure bales by squeezing them between two arms.
Agricultural-workers; Agricultural-machinery; Occupational-accidents; Mortality-rates; Surveillance-programs
Publication Date
Document Type
Journal Article
Fiscal Year
Issue of Publication
NIOSH Division
Source Name
Journal of the American Medical Association
Page last reviewed: August 1, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division