AGRICULTURE, FORESTRY and FISHING
Status of National Agriculture Injury Surveys at NIOSH
Although no longer actively conducting national agricultural injury surveys, NIOSH remains committed to the prevention of injuries, illnesses, and deaths in the agriculture sector. To do this, NIOSH will continue to work with its extramural partners to promote advances in agricultural injury surveillance; facilitate the use of surveillance information for prevention efforts among partners and stakeholders; and encourage the inclusion and accurate coding of industry and occupation in existing and future databases.
NIOSH began its coordinated program in agriculture in 1990, and in 1996 added youth agricultural injury prevention as an area of focus. For 25 years the Institute partnered with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to conduct targeted national surveys. Over this time, both the size of the U.S. agricultural workforce and the number of work-related injuries declined each year. These declines made data collection a costly and resource-intensive process as larger sample sizes would be required to determine injury estimates.
As a result, NIOSH did not continue interagency agreements with DOL and USDA to collect national agricultural worker injury data in Fiscal Year 2015.
Examination of NIOSH’s Agriculture Injury Surveillance Efforts
At the beginning of Fiscal Year 2015, NIOSH began a rigorous examination of options to reshape its approach to agricultural injury surveillance. To do this, NIOSH:
- Asked for input from the public. NIOSH held a public meeting (see Federal Register Noticeexternal icon) and comment period (see docketexternal icon) to gather feedback from the public, namely agricultural stakeholders, on new ways of doing surveillance using smarter, more cost-effective approaches.
- Contracted with the RAND Corporation to conduct an objective assessment of the practicality and potential benefit of the agricultural surveillance recommendations made to NIOSH by a 2012 expert panel who reviewed the NIOSH Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing program. A report with findings and recommendations from RAND is availableexternal icon.
- Identified agricultural injury surveillance research and activities conducted by Centers for Agricultural Safety and Health. NIOSH funds 10 Centers for Agricultural Safety and Health and the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety. Several Centers conduct agricultural injury surveillance. A summary of injury surveillance projects conducted by Centers is available.
- Requested a study by the National Academies of Scienceexternal icon on developing a smarter national surveillance system for occupational safety and health in the 21st century. NIOSH, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requested this study to address occupational injury and illness surveillance broadly. Though not specific to agricultural surveillance, results from this study are relevant to all industry sectors, including agriculture.
Questions & Answers
The following are available sources of agricultural injury data from NIOSH:
- Demographic and injury data related to youth (available for 2001, 2004, 2006, 2009, 2012, and 2014)
- Demographic and injury data related to working adults (available for 2004, 2009, 2012, and 2014)
- Data on pesticides, all-terrain vehicles, tractors, and other farm hazards (available for 2006 and 2011)
- Sentinel Event Notification System for Occupational Risk (SENSOR)-pesticide data
- Crop worker data for the periods: 1999, 2002-2004; 2008-2010; 2014-2015.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statisticsexternal icon provides data on deaths and injuries in agricultural industries based on their Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries and Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses.
The U.S. Department of Labor provides data on demographics, employment, and health of crop workers through the National Agricultural Workers Surveyexternal icon.
To support prevention work, NIOSH continues to use U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data to track deaths and nonfatal injuries among working adults and children. NIOSH also continues to support the Sentinel Event Notification System for Occupational Risk (SENSOR) Pesticides Program to collect data on pesticide exposures and illnesses in multiple work settings, including agriculture.
The changes to how NIOSH conducts agricultural injury surveillance are the result of several challenges. Due to the diligent work of NIOSH and its partners, the number of injuries occurring on farms has decreased significantly, especially to youth on farms but also to hired crop workers. With fewer injuries to identify, the national surveys of farm operators and workers would have required larger sample sizes to provide NIOSH with stable injury estimates, significantly increasing survey costs.
NIOSH stopped conducting surveys of farm operators in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This includes the Childhood Agricultural Injury Survey (CAIS), the Occupational Injury Surveillance of Production Agriculture (OISPA), and the Farm Safety Survey (FSS). Also, NIOSH no longer funds injury modules for the National Agricultural Workers Survey, known as NAWS, administered through the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).
Public meeting: Thirty-two people registered for the web-based public meeting, which was held on March 30, 2015. The meeting included presentations from the National Children’s Center for Rural Agricultural Health and Safety, the University of Nebraska Medical Center, and the Wake Forest School of Medicine. Additional presentations were made by NIOSH staff. All presentations and a transcript of the meeting are available in the docketexternal icon.
Public comment: The public comment period opened on February 26, 2015 and closed on May 27, 2015. During that time 16 comments were received from the public, academia, and agricultural trade and safety organizations.
Feedback received from the public meeting and public comment period focused on:
- expanding surveillance efforts
- initiating new surveillance efforts to address current gaps
- using existing databases
- developing collaborations with private industry and other federal and state government agencies.
The RAND assessmentexternal icon found that while many of the recommendations made by the 2012 expert panel exceeded NIOSH resources or had barriers for implementation, there are some promising avenues for moving agriculture injury surveillance forward. They noted that extramural funding mechanisms are promising. They called out two actions as high priority:
- Develop concise definitions of populations at occupational exposure risk
- Identify and evaluate the potential of existing data sources for illness and injury surveillance of agricultural workers.
NIOSH’s work in surveillance is guided by an implementation planpdf icon to address the National Academies’ recommendations for A Smarter National Surveillance System for Occupational Safety and Health in the 21st Centuryexternal icon. Although the National Academies’ recommendations did not address or recommend industry-specific injury surveillance, they provide overarching recommendations that will advance injury surveillance across industries and occupations. Likewise, the recommendations are consistent with public input encouraging the use of existing databases and collaborating with federal and state government agencies. The National Academies’ recommendations are also consistent with RAND’s assessment that extramural funding mechanisms are promising as well as NIOSH’s review that identified considerable injury surveillance conducted by grantees.
As part of the implementation plan, NIOSH intends to:
- Expand biomedical informatics use and capabilities to leverage existing data and future data
- Encourage the inclusion of occupation and industry information in surveys, case reports, data systems and electronic health records. This will expand data on agricultural workers and foster comparisons with other groups.
- Support and collaborate with NIOSH Centers for Agricultural Safety and Health and state occupational safety and health surveillance programs to:
- Identify and use consistent terminology
- Develop and evaluate new methodologies for using multiple data systems
- Maximize regional or population-specific data collection to fill gaps
- Explore existing surveys and data managed by other agencies for feasibility in the agricultural sector
- Use existing data to identify, describe, track, and evaluate risks and injuries
- Promote and facilitate the use of surveillance information for prevention efforts
- Present more comprehensive information on the extent, distribution, and characteristics of injuries and exposures
NIOSHTIC-2 is a searchable bibliographic database of occupational safety and health publications, documents, grant reports, and journal articles supported in whole or in part by NIOSH.
NIOSHTIC-2 search results specific to agriculture are based on keywords: agriculture, surveillance, injury.
Surveillance of Injuries and Risk Factors in Using Workers’ Compensation Data: This project analyzes agricultural injuries captured in two datasets: Iowa’s Statewide Trauma System and an Iowa-based Workers’ Compensation program from 2005-2015 to estimate the incidence of agricultural injury. This project also entails evaluating a new agriculture hazard surveillance tool, developed by an insurance company, to determine if it accurately predicts injuries reported via workers compensation claims.
Surveillance of Agricultural Injury and Illness in the Central States Region: This research entails conducting annual surveys of agricultural injuries in the Central States region and linking findings with existing data on farm production and operator characteristics from the Census of Agriculture. Further, this research will explore alternative surveillance methods for injuries and illnesses, including analyses of ‘big data’, automated online surveys, and media tracking services to expand the evidence base for prevention.
Improving Methods for Traumatic Injury Surveillance in Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing: This study seeks to establish low-cost injury surveillance methods for the agriculture, forestry, and commercial fishing industries in the Northeast. As part of this research, investigators will optimize narrative keyword searches; investigate state and regional trauma databanks; explore the utility of ICD10 E-Codes for Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing surveillance; and collect injury data using a survey designed by the Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health for regional data comparisons.
Leveraging Motor Vehicle Crash Data for Injury Surveillance and Research in Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing: To address surveillance and research needs, this project will seek to construct a model system to support surveillance and research of nonfatal and fatal crashes involving agriculture, forestry, and fishing (AFF) equipment and vehicles. This project also includes developing and evaluating a process for identifying and extracting variables from crash narratives to support identification and characterization of crashes involving AFF equipment, vehicles, and workers.
Filling the gaps in Child Agriculture Injury Data: This project explores the most promising, existing public health data systems to determine their utility for adding to the limited data currently available.
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Division of Safety Research (DSR)