A Second Chance: After life-changing injury, farmer-turned-researcher now teaches others about agricultural dangers

Robert “Chip” Petrea was trying to feed damp yellow hay into a red baler on a wet Sunday afternoon in 1978, but the machine refused to pick it up.

Petrea was working in a low-lying field that frequently flooded. A storm was headed toward the 89-acre dairy farm located just outside Iuka in south-central Illinois, and he knew that the already soggy hay would be ruined by the coming rain if he could not find a way to get it to bale.

Farm Fatalities in Illinois

Each day, more than 200 agriculture workers suffer an injury severe enough to miss work, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Many farm laborers die because of injuries they received while working. Below are the locations by county of 800 farm fatalities in Illinois from 1986 to 2012, as recorded by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Extension Office. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is responsible for monitoring workplace safety in the United States. However, because farm fatalities sometimes go unreported and because OSHA is not required to enforce safety regulations on farms that have fewer than 11 employees, it does not maintain a comprehensive farm-fatality database.