Homesteading Accidents That Will Get You Killed

June 19, 2015

Bug Out Bags

homesteading, survival gardening

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) “farm accidents and other work-related health problems claim as many as 1300 lives and cause 120,000 injuries a year, most of which are preventable.” (source) On average, 113 youth (under the age of 20) are killed in farm related accidents per year. (source)

By definition an accident is an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury. Sometimes, no matter how careful you are, accidents happen. However, often the extent of the injury can be lessened by the things we chose to do before and after an accident.

Homesteads are a little different than large farms in that homesteads usually have children on the property which adds additional safety concerns to the homestead.

Tractor Accidents

Tractor accidents have the highest number of fatalities on a farm or homestead.  Almost half of all tractor accident fatalities are a result of the tractor being overturned.  Often times, the operator is doing what he’s done many times before without issue. This was the case with a 76 year old dairy farmer who was hauling hay with his tractor down a sloping farm lane. The weight of the hay cause the trailer to go faster and it eventually jackknifed, pinning the man under the tractor. He died before emergency personnel could get there. Having a tractor equipped with ROPS (Roll-over Protective Structure) can limit injury from a roll over.

Tractor accidents are not limited to rollovers. Run overs claim about 60 lives a year. Run overs can be caused by the driver not wearing a seat belt and falling off the tractor and then being run over by the tractor. Or from not turning the tractor off when getting off of it. Or, unfortunately, from not seeing another person and running them over. Most of these accidents can be prevented by wearing seat belts, only having one person on the tractor at a time and making sure that the tractor is turned off when getting on and off.  The hardest one to prevent is running another person over because it means that the driver must me aware all around him all the time. It is imperative to teach children to NOT go near a running tractor – even if they think the driver sees them. They should be taught to stay a safe distance away until the tractor has been turned off. Because children are shorter and really fast, accidents like this one in Arizona are too common.

Many farm children like to ride in the back of trailers and trucks and, honestly, it’s all fun until something goes wrong.  This was the case with a two year old who was riding in a tractor wagon along with several bags of grain. The load shifted and crushed the toddler. An accident like this can happen in a split second, so it’s really important that if a child is going to ride in a wagon that there is an adult in the wagon with him and nothing else.

homesteading, survival gardening

Fire Accidents

Fire is such a great tool for the homestead. It can keep you warm, help clear your fields and even help you cook. But it’s also extremely dangerous when not taken seriously. Especially during the summer months, fire can spread very quickly, not only because of the heat but also because of the dry fields and hay.

Controlled burns are somewhat of a misnomer because it’s very hard to control fire. Winds can shift quickly and it just takes one spark to burn hundreds of acres. If you do need to burn brush it is important to make sure you have enough people and water standing by to keep it under control. It’s also wise to inform you local fire department and obtain any necessary permits.

Spontaneous combustion can happen with hay or grain that is stored before it is completely dry. Just like the bacteria in a compost pile makes it get hot, the bacteria in wet hay or grain can cause the temperatures to increase. If they increase quickly enough, the hay bale or grain pile can catch itself on fire.  This can be prevented by making sure that the hay (or grain) has the correct moisture content for storage, for hay that is between 10-15%.

Barns add an extra element of fire danger to a homestead. Not only are they full of dry hay but they are open and open buildings will burn faster than buildings with walls inside. Barns are also usually away from the family residence. Where a smoke detector would inform a family of the possibility of fire in a house, there is usually no person in a barn when a fire starts. So the fire has time to spread before it is even noticed. Barn fires can spread very quickly, in fact, the great Chicago fire of 1871 is often blamed on a cow knocking over a lantern in a barn. That fire burned for two days killing 300 people, leaving another 100,000 people homeless and causing $200 million worth of damage.

Gaited Horses has some great tips on barn safety which includes calling your local fire department and asking them to inspect your barns and adding sheet rock to lofts.

homesteading, survival gardening


Manure management is part of having a homestead. The more animals you have the more manure you have to deal with. Manure gives off methane, hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide and ammonia as it breaks down. Larger homesteads and farms will often have manure pits where manure will go through an anaerobic process to become fertilizer. While manure pits are a great way of dealing with a lot of waste, they are very dangerous to enter.  Some farmers enter manure pits to fix things here and there without ever having a problem, then one day the conditions are just right and it becomes lethal. That is what happened to a family of four and a hired hand one summer day in 2007. Even though entering a manure pit is dangerous, the farmer had done it hundreds of times and expected this time to be just like the other. It wasn’t, and it cost him, his wife and children and another man their lives.

Manure can also pose a problem for ground and well water. If not handled properly your water supply can become contaminated.  Soil is a great filter for water, however if the soil is overrun with too much manure it will not be able to filter it all. Make sure you don’t have too many animals for your homestead. Also collecting and composting manure instead of letting it sit on the ground will help keep the ground water safe. Reformation Acres has an interesting method of using chickens to help with the cow manure and open pastures for the pigs.

Dehydration, Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke

Homesteading is hard work.  For the most part, the work is outside all day long and often alone. This can be a dangerous situation. According to the National Farm Worker Ministry, heat stroke is the leading cause of work related death among farm workers. It’s a shame because of all the things we’ve talked about so far, this one is the most easily prevented.

It’s really important to start the day hydrated and stay hydrated. That means carrying water with you and stopping for breaks. It’s hard sometimes to take a break while you’re on a roll, but the hotter it is the more breaks you should be taking. There are plenty of signs, beyond thirst, that your body will give you that you are headed for danger. Some of those signs are cool skin and chills even though it’s hot outside, headache, nausea, weakness, muscle cramps. If your temperature goes above 104°F, it’s time to head to the doctor’s office.

homesteading, survival gardening

Cuts, Infections and Bleeding

Even when you are super careful and know what you are doing, cuts can happen. And when they do, there is always the possibility of infection. So, it’s important to have a stocked first aid kit and know how to use each of the things in your kit.  It’s also important to know when to seek medical attention for your cut. Our rule of thumb is, when in doubt get it checked out. Sometimes that is at the time of the injury but sometimes it’s days later. Misty Prepper has a great (but graphic) video about what happened when she cut her hand butchering hogs.

Because I’m prone to cutting my hand, a friend gave me a fillet glove as a gift. It works great. If you are prone to cutting your hand or if you’re working with training children to butcher animals or fillet fish, you might consider getting one.

Sometimes the injuries on the homestead are not gushing blood everywhere. Sometime they are internal, as was the case with the girl who was kicked by her horse which ruptured her liver. Unfortunately, even though the girl was immediately rushed to the hospital she died of her injuries. Internal injuries are harder to gauge than ones that are external. Anytime someone is kicked in the torso or head by a large animal, they should be taken to the doctor to be examined for internal injuries.

Accidents happen and it is impossible to prevent all of them. But by being mindful, learning from the experiences of others and using common sense many homestead accidents can either be avoided or at least not lead to death.



, ,

About Angi Schneider

"Angi Schneider is a minister’s wife and homeschooling mom. She is passionate about growing food for her family and living a simple life. She blogs their homesteading and homeschooling adventures at and is the author of The Gardening Notebook which she wrote to help other gardeners remember all the great information they are learning."

View all posts by Angi Schneider

25 Responses to “Homesteading Accidents That Will Get You Killed”

  1. Rebecca Says:

    Miss laid tools are also a problem, make sure when a job is done all your tools get cleaned & put away. Anyone can become victim of a fall, cut, being hit or falling items when someone is careless.


  2. debbie Says:

    Watch for falling trees, sick and dying trees, keeping your area clean and neat. Learn what you can about your land, we found an old garbage dump. It had been neatly covered over, flat, green grass, but over time the broken glass, cans etc. worked their way up, and we are still in possess of cleanup after many years.


    • Earl Mardle Says:

      My tree guy started me off helping him with the words, “you need to remember only one thing about trees, they are trying to kill you. And if they can’t kill you they will maim, blind or injure you in any way they can.” From falling on you while they stand to the hot ashes from their fire burning down your house, trees are out to get you.

      I have a rule when working with trees and that is Cut, clean, clear away. When pruning a tree even, I cut off a branch, then strip it and stack the foliage for mulching and remove the branch itself to a stack for cutting to firewood, THEN, and only then, cut the next one.

      It feels slow but it has the advantage that you can stop at any time and all the work is done, but most importantly, the fallen material is not there to try and kill you.

      A few months ago, in a patch of bush, I broke my own rule and left a couple of branches lying around. Last week, while doing something else in that bush, which had grown around the fallen branch, I tripped on it, fell and landed with the point of my knee on a stone. 5 days of painful and inefficient walking and a LOT of swearing about the idiot who broke his own rule.

      It could have been worse, the damage could have been permanent.


  3. Bob Says:

    I was recently reminded that snakes show up when and where you least expect them. It restored my habit of better watching for them.


  4. Kim Says:

    Animals can be very dangerous. We had a young woman in our stables get kicked by a horse which was kicking at flies that ruptured her spleen. Without emergency surgery, she would have died.

    Small children are often injured because they run up on the animals or are not seen. I have seen roosters injure more than one person with their spurs (if they were mine, they would have been in freezer camp for sure).

    We often take for granted that our animals are safe and even tempered. Way too many people are injured on the farm by their animals by accident or most likely, because they did something to cause the animal to run or kick.


    • Earl Mardle Says:

      Agreed. I have a lovely, mild tempered cow that I milk by hand. While doing so I always watch for her feet moving and at the first sign, pull back a little just in case. She has kicked me on the wrist once when I didn’t move fast enough because I probably tweaked a hair or in some way made her uncomfortable.

      I also never work over her head and always try to keep my hand and arm between her and my body so that if she turns towards me she pushes against that first. She’s only a Dexter but that makes nearly 300kg of animal behind everything she does.


    • Michele Says:

      You can trim those spurs, you know.


  5. Softballumpire Says:

    While many of your ideas are not without merit; turning a diesel engine off each time you step off is not very practical and the continued restarting reduces engine and battery life. Setting a locking foot brake on one or both wheels and placing both transmissions in neutral is more practical.

    Another hazard, not mentioned I will relate my late uncle’s anecdotal evidence. Common knowledge is that diesel fuel won’t explode, however my uncle had been working his International TD14 for several hours in the hot sun. Nearing the buildings with some time left in the day, it was decision tome to refuel or make one more round. He chose to check his fuel level after he stopped near the buildings. He unscrewed the large fuel cap and couldn’t see the light reflecting off the surface of the fuel so he lit a match. It was a few weeks before his eye brows and lashes were visible again. It remains an oft repeated lesson passed on to each generation of operators and a penlight flashlight is standard part of toolbox contents.

    One other accident class is related to those who wear long hair. It doesn’t require much of an unexpected wind shift to blow hair strands into rotating shafts. Pony tails are even more hazardous because the entire body of hair is fed into and the scalping is more severe than that effectuated by the Indian warriors. It sneds the body into shock and is usually fatal.


    • Ron Says:

      I am in the water well industry. Several years ago one of our competitors daughter’s, who is a fine driller in her on right, was accidentally scrapped by the Kelly and rotary of her rig when her hard hat fell off and her long braid was grabbed as she reached to take a sand sample from the return. By the Will of God and the fast thinking of her no.1 she survived with only a scar at the edge of her not so long hair line. She lived to tell the tail but not many are so lucky in our very dangerous industry. Safety is job No.1 but accidents do happen. Playing “what if” in every situation and every person one site having the ability to shut the job down over a safety concern is how we get to go home at night the way we came to work,just a lot more tired.


    • Earl Mardle Says:

      Plus, I always leave my tractor with the hood up. One of the biggest dangers to tractors is birds nesting on the warm engine at the end of the day. If you don’t use it for a few days then drive off without checking you can easily end up with a fire on your machine which can also set fire to your landscape.


    • Angi Schneider Says:

      Yeah, any fuel and matches don’t really mix well. Diesel is less volatile than gasoline but that doesn’t mean it won’t explode.

      Thanks for the tip on the long hair!


  6. Reba Says:

    One should not were loose fitting clothes on while working with moving parts of machinery either. Here in. My mom had a button down, long sleeve shirt on. The sleeves were not buttoned. The loose sleeve got caught in the post hole digger that was attached to the back of the tractor. It almost killed her.


  7. Bobby Deems Says:

    GREAT POST; Always remember “COMMON-SENSE” IS “The Best-Friend” you HAVE!
    CHILDREN; “ALWAYS NEED ATTENTION”! “Learning-from-your-mistakes” is something WE’VE ALL “Been-Thru”, but children are naturally “Quite INQUISITIVE”(?) By nature AND; “LEARNING” CAN Get-them-KILLED! Anybody with any “Farm” or whatever knows that “Kids” ARE GREAT, BUT “KIDS-NEED-WATCHED”. Let them “LEARN”, but “Make-SURE” they do that “Learning” WITHOUT Getting HURT; “Too-bad”, at least. Any “Farm Kid” will get a FEW MORE “DINGS” than their “Suburban” brethren. They’ll ALSO “Grow-Up” to be “BETTER” (At least MORE “CAPABLE”) ADULTS.


  8. jeanne Says:

    i’ve seen many people following a farm or industrial accident in my years in the operating room-and most often the injury has been the result of something that the person did over and over many times, and that one time didn’t use the same safety precautions they normally did. When you first try something you may make an error out of ignorance, but usually you are hyper vigilant because it it something new and unfamiliar. with repetition comes familiarity and relaxation of concerns-and that seems to be when the accidents occur-people will often say afterwards “i knew better than to do that!”. so it is important to stay cautious and aware whatever task we are doing


  9. Sam W. Says:

    I don’t see mention of spiders. I found the largest black widow under an old lawnmower last week. There are also fiddlebacks (brown recluse) around.


  10. Viet Vet Says:

    LOL Living will get you killed. Just remember that ANYTHING you do will try and kill you. Sometimes I felt that being in Nam was safer than being in the States only because I was ALWAYS careful there.


  11. Ken Says:

    When I was about 10 or 11, I was cutting clumps of grass for my rabbits. I was using a knife and missed, hitting my ring finger. About a dozen stitches later, I was OK, but still have the scar 60 years later to remind me of my stupidity…


  12. Dee Says:

    Jeanne was so right. I am constantly checking on situations to keep me and hubby as well as the grands safe. He uses heavy equipment for tree felling and forgot what he was doing near a power line. I walked out and went bonkers when I saw the small tree was laying on the power line and it was arching! Needless to say, I spoke to my husband about remembering where he was and the attention to surroundings. As we get older, we are slowing down in our reaction time and this is the biggest danger that we face. This article has given me appreciation that I am NOT going overboard with attention to safety and health. I would like to stay here on our homestead at least five more years and I want to do everything I can while I am here.


  13. Richard Says:

    chainsaws and forestry activities are the most dangerous things one can do around the farm. Also bush-hogging. Make sure no-one is around when doing this as items are thrown from the machine at horrific speeds.


  14. Lori Says:

    Outstanding post Angi, thank you. To augment your tractor safety admonitions, I strongly recommend the 4H Tractor Safety program (call your local Cooperative Extension office). Ten hours of in the seat driver’s ed, machinery maintenance checklist practice, and classroom critical safety training (with a few hours of reading and homework during the week).

    This course is required for 14-15 year olds to operate farm machinery on a farm other than their own. They will earn a Department of Labor certification and letter to prospective employers with their test scores. I enrolled with my homeschool son and was impressed with the quality and quantity of serious subject matter. No fluff, “see my scars” presentation by local farmers who’ve taught this for 30+ years.

    This program is also known as HOSTA (Hazardous Occupations Safety Training in Agriculture). More than valuable, I consider it essential. Enroll no matter your age or experience. There are too many ways a simple lapse can injure or kill you on a farm, and this course is an eye opener.

    A bonus: I really like the major improvement I’ve seen in my son’s tractor work product.


  15. Wendy Says:

    I used to raise sheep. We made small panels of untreated lumber for new ewe/lamb pairs and had clamp-on heat lamps in each stall to keep them warmer since lambing begins in the winter months. One 2 a.m. check revealed a ewe had bumped a lamp and it repositioned pointing toward the wood (only a few inches away from the bulb). The panel looked charred, so I shut off and removed the lamp and took the panel out to run some cold water on it. As I walked out of the barn it burst into flame. This was a scenario that had never occurred to me, but compelled me to take a closer look at some of our practices.


Leave a Reply