NCR197: Agricultural Safety and Health Research
Statement of Issues and JustificationAgriculture and mining are the two most hazardous industries in the U.S. with 22 and 24 deaths per 100,000 workers respectively, compared to an average of 4 deaths per 100,000 workers for all industries. Agriculture, however, has 5 times as many fatalities annually as mining since there are substantially more workers in agriculture than mining. Agriculture's ranking as one of the two most hazardous industries has resulted in significant media attention and pressure by safety advocates, farm worker organizations and others on farmers, farm equipment manufacturers, and those agencies considered responsible for the safety and health of agricultural workers and farm families to improve the safety record for agriculture. Human capital is the most valuable resource in agriculture, and the need to protect this resource is paramount.
For the past 10 years, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has been providing approximately $20 million in annual appropriations primarily for surveillance and epidemiological research of farm injuries and illnesses. According to a recent survey funded by NIOSH and conducted by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, about 200,000 work-related injuries occurred on U.S. farms in 1993. Various studies have also shown that farmers and farm workers suffer from high rates of respiratory diseases, cumulative trauma disorders, amputations, noise induced hearing loss, skin disorders, certain cancers, heat-related illnesses, and chemical exposures.
Ongoing research and surveillance are yielding the scientific basis that supports the need for more effective and extensive interventions. The agricultural industry is in need of economical and viable means to reduce the occupational injury and illness risk among farm workers. While NIOSH has the expertise to support surveillance and epidemiological research, they have limited expertise of agricultural systems and rural information dissemination, and they lack the networking capability that will yield economically viable solutions to agricultural safety and health issues that will be broadly adopted by the agricultural industry. The Agricultural Experiment Stations and Cooperative Extension System have expertise in agricultural systems and agricultural safety and health issues but lack the coordinating structure a multi-state research committee could provide in identification and coordination of research and extension priorities.
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