Occupational Injury in Migrant Hispanic Farmworker Families

Title: Occupational Injury in Migrant Hispanic Farmworker Families

Investigator: Stephen A. McCurdy, M.D.

Affiliation: University of California

City & State: Davis, CA

Award Number: 5 R01 OH003444-02

Start & End Date: 1/1/1997–12/31/1999

Program Area: Special Populations


The agriculture industry is among the most hazardous industries in the United States. California hosts approximately 700,000 hired farm workers, who perform the majority of field production labor. In spite of the large size of this population and its economic importance for California, few data are available addressing its injury risk. We conducted a prospective cohort study of injury across the 1997 harvest season among migrant Hispanic farm workers living in six Northern California migrant family housing centers. Participants completed an initial interviewer-administered work-and-health questionnaire with periodic followup through the season. One thousand two hundred and six adult farm workers completed the initial survey. Participation rate was 85.2% among adults, and ranged from 81.1% to 93.4% in participating migrant housing centers. Eight hundred thirty-nine persons (69.6%) completed the fourth and final periodic questionnaire. There were 96 occupational (86 agricultural and 10 nonagricultural) and 44 nonoccupational injuries observed over the harvest season or reported for the preceding year, yielding a one-year reported occupational injury rate of 10.4/100 FTE. Increased risk was noted for men (11.0 vs. 9.2/100 FTE for women) and current smokers (14.1 vs.9.0/100 FTE for neversmokers). Increased risk was also noted for persons paid piece-rate, although this finding was not statistically significant. No increased risk was seen associated with increased acetylcholinesterase suppression across the harvest season. Sprains and strains were predominant, comprising 29 (30%) occupational injuries, followed by lacerations, comprising 14 (15%) occupational injuries. The most commonly involved body parts were the head (28%) and trunk (26%). Overexertion and strenuous movements were the most common external cause, comprising 26 (27%) occupational injuries. The study also included 941 children (persons younger than 18 years of age), interviewed by proxy through their parents. There were 51 injuries among 49 children; two of the injuries were occupational. Quantitative injury risk for adults in this cohort appears comparable to that of agricultural workers in other U.S. settings. Further research should be undertaken to characterize the natural history of farm work and injury in this population, including the potential role of payment scheme in affecting injury risk. The heterogeneity of injury in this population presents a major challenge, because no specific injury type represents a majority. Thus, any given intervention may address only a minority of injuries. However, in view of the high frequency of strain and sprain injuries, ergonomic interventions deserve further study.


McCurdy SA, Carroll DJ: Agricultural Injury. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, accepted

von Essen SG, McCurdy SA: Health and Safety Risks Associated with Work in Production Agriculture. Western J Med 169:214-220, 1998

Page last reviewed: August 30, 2001