Agriculture always has been a dangerous profession, but in recent years it leaped ahead of mining as the most hazardous industry in the United States, based on ag occupational fatality rates. And, compared to most other workers, farmers experience chronic illnesses related to their work.
A new center based at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha is delving into these health and safety issues in a seven-state region. CS-CASH, the Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health, is one of the latest centers funded by NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health).
"Our overall goal in our 5-year effort is to understand why farmers sustain injuries and illnesses, using research and surveys, and to come up with interventions and preventions to help avoid those problems," says Risto Rautiainen, UNMC associate professor of environmental, agricultural and environmental health. He is director of the CS-CASH initiative.
CS-CASH officially began last September and for its first two years of projects has received $2.3 million.
Many of the researchers are UNMC faculty, but scientists from the other states will also be involved.
Several research and pilot projects have begun.
Among the projects is a new agricultural injury data collection effort, including an annual survey of injuries in the seven-state region. That data, along with existing data on farm production and operators characteristics from the Census of Agriculture, will be used to identify injuries and estimate rates of injury and risk factors. CS-CASH has already begun work with USDA on an injury survey of 3,000 producers in the seven states—Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri, according to Rautiainen.
Other projects involve hearing protection, inflammatory lung diseases associated with working in hog facilities, grain dust exposure, sleep deprivation, assessing farm safety practices in an on-farm certification program, and health/safety education and outreach.
The center estimates more than one-quarter of U.S. farmers are in the seven states.
For more information, go to www.unmc.edu/publichealth/cs-cash.htm