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Community collaborations for farmworker occupational health.

May JJ; Richardson GE; Hawkes L; Dubois A; Carrasquillo M; Ginley B
Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, R25-OH-008144, 2008 Oct; :1-10
The Community Collaborations for Farmworker Safety and Health Project was established in 2003 as part of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health's (NIOSH) Environmental Justice Initiative. The project involved a multi-disciplinary coalition consisting of a research team at the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health (NYCAMH), primary care practitioners (PCP) in the study region, and migrant health program (MHP) directors. Coalitions were formed in Orange County (southeastern NY) and Washington County in eastern Maine. The cornerstone of the collaborative intervention process at each site was the "work team," consisting of farmworkers (FW), farm owners, clinicians and other agency personnel. These groups gathered and assessed data from the larger community, and enlisted public participation in planning and implementing project activities. In New York, we worked with Hudson River Healthcare (HRHC) and a team of farmworkers and farm owners to address the problem of eye irritation related to the very fine black soil in the region. Several different types of protective eyewear were selected by the workers and systematically tested in field trials. Workers were also provided ready access to eyewash solution and were given training on eye protection, irritation and infection at the beginning of the season. Low-literacy Spanish pocket information cards were tested, modified and then distributed to workers. There was good support of this effort from the limited number of owners on the work team. Comparison of workers on intervention and control farms showed statistically significant reductions in eye irritation and several eye symptoms. In the final year, these interventions were made widely available to all workers in the region and the project materials were disseminated to migrant agencies in Oswego, NY where there is similar fine black soil and related eye irritation. The local migrant clinic in Orange County will sustain the eye intervention in the future, possibly with the help of the local Lions Club. In Maine, we worked with the Maine Migrant Health Program (MMHP) and a team of blueberry rakers and farm owners. The team selected musculoskeletal problems related to raking of blueberries as their major occupational health priority, and selected rake design as the mode of interaction. In the second year's harvest, a systematic trial of several potential intervention designs resulted in an extended handle design on both 70 & 80 tine rakes. In the following harvest, these were systematically compared to the traditional short handle rake by involving workers who tried a different design each day for five days. The extended handle rakes were greatly preferred by workers, were associated with less pain, required less force (subjectively) and were associated with increased productivity. In the last season's harvest, extended handle kits were produced by two different manufacturers and distributed at meetings in various camps early in the season. At each meeting, the goals and results of the project were reviewed with workers. A staff member was available to install any handles that workers chose to buy. Over the relatively short season, the supply of handles was completely exhausted. Maine's major rake manufacturer was involved in the work team and is a firm supporter of this intervention. Extended handle kits are now prominently featured in his catalogues and website. With support from the Maine Department of Labor, an instruction video (in Spanish and English) has been prepared which covers raking ergonomics and extended rake handles as well as heat and sun exposure, insect bites and other health concerns. We are currently seeking grant funds for a similar three-year undertaking in northern Maine broccoli production.
Agricultural-industry; Agricultural-processes; Agricultural-workers; Agriculture; Farmers; Qualitative-analysis; Questionnaires; Risk-analysis; Statistical-analysis; Training; Work-analysis; Work-environment; Worker-motivation; Work-operations; Work-performance; Work-practices
John J. May, MD, The New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health, The Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital, Atwell Road, Cooperstown, NY 13326
Publication Date
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Final Grant Report
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NIOSH Division
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
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Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital - New York
Page last reviewed: March 18, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division