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Safety and health hazard observations in Hmong farming operations.

Neitzel RL; Krenz J; de Castro AB
J Agromedicine 2014 Jun; 19(2):130-149
Agricultural workers have a high risk of occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. However, there are very few standardized tools available to assess safety and health in agricultural operations. Additionally, there are a number of groups of agricultural workers, including Hmong refugees and immigrants, for which virtually no information on safety and health conditions is available. This study developed an observation-based methodology for systematically evaluating occupational health and safety hazards in agriculture, and pilot-tested this on several small-scale Hmong farming operations. Each observation assessed of range of safety and health hazards (e.g., musculoskeletal hazards, dust and pollen, noise, and mechanical hazards), as well as on factors such as type of work area, presence of personal protective equipment, and weather conditions. Thirty-six observations were collected on nine farms. The most common hazards observed were bending at the back and lifting <50 pounds. Use of sharp tools without adequate guarding mechanisms, awkward postures, repetitive hand motions, and lifting >50 pounds were also common. The farming activities observed involved almost no power equipment, and no pesticide or chemical handling was observed. The use of personal protective equipment was uncommon. The results of this assessment agreed well with a parallel study of perceived safety and health hazards among Hmong agricultural workers. This study suggests that small-scale Hmong farming operations involve a variety of hazards, and that occupational health interventions may be warranted in this community. The study also demonstrates the utility of standardized assessment tools and mixed-method approaches to hazard evaluation.
Agriculture; Agricultural-workers; Agricultural-industry; Injuries; Morbidity-rates; Mortality-rates; Sociological-factors; Demographic-characteristics; Exposure-levels; Risk-factors; Health-hazards; Hazards; Musculoskeletal-system; Musculoskeletal-system-disorders; Dust-exposure; Noise; Personal-protection; Personal-protective-equipment; Back-injuries; Posture; Farmers; Author Keywords: Hazard assessment; Hmong farming; injury risk; safety and health
R. L. Neitzel, PhD, MS, Department of Environmental Health Sciences, University of Michigan, 6611 D SPH Tower, 1415 Washington Heights, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2029
Publication Date
Document Type
Journal Article
Email Address
Funding Type
Cooperative Agreement; Grant
Fiscal Year
Identifying No.
Cooperative-Agreement-Number-U54-OH-007544; Grant-Number-T42-OH-008433
Issue of Publication
Priority Area
Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing
Source Name
Journal of Agromedicine
Performing Organization
University of Washington
Page last reviewed: May 13, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division