Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing

Participating core and specialty programs: Center for Direct Reading and Sensor Technologies, Center for Maritime Safety and Health Studies, Center for Occupational Robotics Research, National Center for Productive Aging and Work, Occupational Health Equity, Prevention through Design, Surveillance, and Translation Research.

Policy-makers, non-governmental organizations, employers, manufacturers, and industry associations use NIOSH information to prevent injuries among high risk workers in the agriculture, forestry, and fishing sector.

NOTE: Goals in bold in the table below are priorities for extramural research.

  Health Outcome Research Focus Worker Population Research Type
A Fatal and non-fatal injuries Characterize safety hazards (e.g., struck-by, falls) Forestry subsector Basic/etiologic


B Non-fatal injuries Explore sources for non-fatal work-related injuries Forestry subsector


Surveillance research
C Fatal and non-fatal injuries Direct reading and sensors to prevent machine-related injuries Forestry subsector Basic/etiologic
D Fatal and non-fatal injuries Machine-related incidents (e.g., tractor, PTO, and grain engulfment) Agriculture subsector; commercial fishing and seafood processing workers Intervention


E Fatal and non-fatal injuries Use of robotics Agriculture subsector Basic/etiologic
F Fatal and non-fatal injuries Codes and other methods needed to identify robot-related injuries Agriculture workers who interact with new technologies Surveillance research
G Non-fatal injuries Explore sources for non-fatal work-related injuries Agriculture subsector;

commercial fishing and seafood processing workers

Surveillance research
H Fatal and non-fatal injuries Falls overboard and vessel disasters Commercial fishing workers Intervention


I Non-fatal injuries Falls (stairs & wet floors) Seafood processing workers Intervention


Activity Goal 6.1.1 (Basic/Etiologic Research): Conduct basic/etiologic research to better understand safety hazards and emerging hazard control technologies to reduce traumatic injuries among agriculture and forestry workers.

Activity Goal 6.1.2 (Intervention Research): Conduct studies to develop and assess the effectiveness of interventions to prevent fatal and non-fatal injuries among agriculture, fishing, and seafood processing workers.

Activity Goal 6.1.3 (Translation Research): Conduct translation research to understand barriers and aids to implementing effective safety interventions among agriculture, forestry, fishing, and seafood processing workers.

Activity Goal 6.1.4 (Surveillance Research): Conduct surveillance research to explore data sources and identification methods for non-fatal work-related injuries among agriculture, forestry, fishing, and seafood processing workers.


According to several studies, farm machinery is a leading source of fatalities and injuries in agriculture accounting for 23–50% of fatalities and approximately 50% of hospitalizations from non-fatal injuries [Jawa et al. 2013]. Farm machinery (particularly tractors) and livestock handling are the leading causes of injuries [NIOSH 2014; Swanton et al. 2015; Browning et al. 2013; Erkal et al. 2008; Dogan and Demirci 2012]. In a study that used death certificate data from 1995–2000, the leading sources of farm-related youth deaths were machinery (25%), followed by motor vehicles, including all-terrain vehicles, (17%) and drownings (16%) [Goldcamp et al. 2004].

Commercial fishing is consistently one of the most dangerous industries in the U.S. During 2000–2015, an annual average of 42 deaths occurred (117 deaths per 100,000 workers in total) [BLS 2016]. Data from the NIOSH Commercial Fishing Incident Database reveals that from 2000–2015, the majority of the deaths (354) occurred after a vessel disaster (defined as a sinking, capsizing, or other event in which the crew was forced to abandon ship) or a fall overboard (221). The Gulf of Mexico fishing region, however, had more fatalities caused by falls overboard than by vessel disasters [Lincoln and Lucas 2010].

During 2011–2014, seafood processing workers experienced the highest injury/illness rate of any maritime workers, with 6,286 injuries/illnesses per 100,000 workers [BLS 2016]. The few occupational safety and health studies conducted in U.S. have identified traumatic injuries as an area of concern [Anderson et al. 2013; Garcia and De Castro 2017; Lucas et al. 2014; Syron et al. 2017]. A study of occupational safety onboard vessels operating in Alaskan waters during 2001–2012 found that the two most frequent causes of injuries were workers being caught in running equipment and cut by slipping knives [Lucas et al. 2014].

In 2015, logging workers had the highest fatal work injury rate with 132.7 fatalities per 100,000 workers [BLS 2015]. In mechanized logging, the highest accident rate results from equipment maintenance and repairs and manual logging of inaccessible areas. In semi-mechanized logging operations, the majority of accidents are usually caused by chainsaws [Albizu- Urionabarrenetxea et al. 2013; Shaffer and Milburn 1999]. The main causes of injury in the logging process are falls and being struck by or against an object [Albizu- Urionabarrenetxea et al. 2013; Quandt et al. 2013]. Falls can occur when body parts are pinned between logs or equipment whereas struck by injuries can occur from falling trees branches, rolling logs, or kickback from power saws [Quandt et al. 2013].


Rapid growth in the use of robotics and other emerging farming technologies are likely to present new risks or exacerbate existing risks due to lack of experience with emerging technologies in varied work settings in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector. There is an urgent need to expand U.S. occupational injury surveillance capabilities to better identify, monitor, and quantify the burden of fatal and non-fatal incidents involving robots and other emerging technologies (e.g., development of new source or event codes). Systematic studies are needed on the impacts of personal, environmental, and task-related risk factors on worker injuries, and evidence-based interventions to address gap in research. There is currently a gap in safety and health research for forestry workers. Immediate research needs include basic research to characterize safety hazards among forestry workers and develop direct reading methods and sensors to prevent machine-related injuries. NIOSH has strong ties with stakeholders in agriculture, including a history of developing surveillance data, funding Agriculture Safety and Health Centers and implementing multiple public health programs since 1991, making it well suited to carry out research in this area.

For the injuries caused by machinery in agriculture, there have been emerging technologies that have introduced potential hazards. Research should be focused on these new technologies including robotics which are becoming common in milking parlors and in the field. For forestry, research should also include emerging technologies and safety issues of working with mechanized harvesting techniques (struck by and falls) and sensors for monitoring and preventing injuries by human machine interaction. Machinery and slips and falls are important areas for safety research in the fishing and seafood processing industries. Further research on causes and injury prevention should be done in this area. It is important that research continues on systems and procedures to increase worker survival after vessel loss disasters. Between NIOSH Commercial Fishing Safety Research and Design Program and NIOSH Center for Maritime Safety and Health Studies, NIOSH is well positioned to conduct research in the commercial fishing and seafood processing industries. Intervention research is needed to determine if and how lessons learned from other high-risk food manufacturing industries – such as poultry processing – could be applied to seafood processing in onshore and offshore factory settings.

Albizu-Urionabarrenetxea P, Tolosana-Esteban E, Roman-Jordan E [2013]. Safety and health in forest harvesting operations. Diagnosis and preventive actions. A review. For Syst 22(3):392-400.

Anderson N, Bonauto D, Adams D [2013]. Prioritizing Industries for Occupational Injury and Illness Prevention and Research, Washington State Workers’ Compensation Claims Data, 2002–2010. Olympia, WA: Washington State Department of Labor & Industries, Technical Report:64-61.

BLS [2015]. Hours-based fatal injury rates by industry, occupation, and selected demographic characteristics, 2015. In: Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics,

BLS [2016]. Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities, 2016. In: Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics,

Browning SR, Westneat SC, Sanderson WT, Reed DB [2013]. Cattle-related injuries and farm management practices on Kentucky beef cattle farms. J Agric Saf Health 19(1):37-49.

Dogan KH, and Demirci S [2012]. Livestock-handling related injuries and deaths. In: Javed, K, ed. Livestock Production. Rijeka, Croatia: InTechOpen Publications.

Erkal S, Gerberich SG, Ryan AD, Renier CM, Alexander BH [2008]. Animal-related injuries: a population-based study of a five-state region in the upper Midwest: Regional Rural Injury Study II. J Safety Res 39(4):351-363.

Garcia GM, De Castro B [2017]. Working Conditions, Occupational Injuries, and Health Among Filipino Fish Processing Workers in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Workplace Health Saf 65(5):219-226.

Goldcamp M, Hendricks KJ, Myers JR [2004]. Farm fatalities to youth 1995–2000: a comparison by age groups. J Safety Res 35(2):151-157.

Jawa RS, Young DH, Stothert JC, Yetter D, Dumond R, Shostrom VK, Cemaj S, Rautiainen RH, Mercer DW [2013]. Farm machinery injuries: The 15-year experience at an urban joint trauma center system in a rural state. J Agromedicine 18(2):98-106.

Lincoln J M, Lucas DL [2010]. Occupational fatalities in the United States commercial fishing industry, 2000–2009. J Agromedicine 15(4):343-350.

Lucas DL, Kincl LD, Bovbjerg VE, Lincoln JM, Branscum AJ [2014]. Work‐related traumatic injuries onboard freezer‐trawlers and freezer‐longliners operating in Alaskan waters during 2001–2012. Am J Ind Med 57(7):826-836.

NIOSH [2014]. Workplace safety and health topics: agriculture. Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health,

Quandt SA, Kucera KL, Haynes C, Klein BG, Langley R, Agnew M, Levin JL, Howard T, Nussbaum MA [2013]. Occupational health outcomes for workers in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector: implications for immigrant workers in the southeastern US. Am J Ind Med 56(8):940-959.

Shaffer RM, Milburn JS [1999]. Injuries on feller-buncher/grapple skidder logging operations in the Southeastern United States. Forest Products J 49(7/8):24.

Swanton AR, Young TL, Leinenkugel K, Torner JC, Peek-Asa C [2015]. Nonfatal tractor-related injuries presenting to a state trauma system. J Safety Res 53:97-102.

Syron LN, Kincl L, Yang L, Cain DT, Smit E [2017]. Analysis of workers’ compensation disabling claims in Oregon’s seafood preparation and packaging industry, 2007‐2013. Am J Ind Med 60(5):484-493.

Page last reviewed: April 24, 2018