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The Occupational Health of U.S. Farmworkers

The Occupational Health of U.S. Farmworkers

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The Occupational Health of U.S. Farmworkers

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  1. The Occupational Health of U.S. Farmworkers 2010 Conference Josh Shepherd, NCFH

  2. What is Occupational Health? • Wikipedia - a cross-disciplinary area concerned with protecting the safety, health and welfare of people engaged in work or employment • World Health Organization - is the promotion and maintenance of the highest degree of physical, mental and social well-being of workers in all occupations by preventing departures from health, controlling risks and the adaptation of work to people, and people to their jobs. • National Institutes of Health - refers to the identification and control of the risks arising from physical, chemical, and other workplace hazards in order to establish and maintain a safe and healthy working environment. 

  3. The Discipline • Occupational health and safety is a discipline with a broad scope involving many specialized fields. In its broadest sense, it should aim at: • the promotion and maintenance of the highest degree of physical, mental and social well-being of workers in all occupations; • the prevention among workers of adverse effects on health caused by their working conditions; • the protection of workers in their employment from risks resulting from factors adverse to health; • the placing and maintenance of workers in an occupational environment adapted to physical and mental needs; • the adaptation of work to humans.

  4. In Simple Terms • Occupation health is about the social, mental and physical well-being of workers.

  5. Importance of Occupational Health and Safety • Most Americans between the ages of 22 and 65 spend 40 to 50 percent of waking hours at work. • Thus it is very important that a person’s work place remain safe and healthy. How worker’s all over the world face dangerous hazards on the job everyday including: • exposure to toxic chemicals • excessive noise levels • mechanical dangers • heat or cold stress • unsanitary conditions

  6. Importance of Occupational Health to Workers • Work-related accidents or diseases are very costly and can have many serious direct and indirect effects on the lives of workers and their families. For workers some of the direct costs of an injury or illness are: • the pain and suffering of the injury or illness; • the loss of income; • the possible loss of a job; leading to increased stress and anxiety. • health-care costs.

  7. Importance of Occupational Health to Employers • Employers may experience the following direct and indirect effects on their business as a result of occupational injury or illness

  8. Work-Related Accidents – in Perspective • In 2009, there were • 5,214 deaths in the United States from job-related injuries • 4.14 million cases of nonfatal injuries and illnesses while working

  9. The Cost of Work-Related Injuries • On a national scale, the estimated costs of occupational accidents and illnesses can be as high as 3 to 4 percent of a country's gross national product (GDP). • In the United States, The total direct and indirect costs associated with these injuries and illnesses in 2008 were estimated to be $155.5 billion, or nearly 3 percent of GDP.

  10. Costs – In Perspective • The direct and indirect costs of occupational injuries in the United States in 2008 was • Roughly five times the costs for AIDS • Three times the costs for Alzheimer's disease • More than the costs of arthritis • Nearly as great as the costs for cancer • Roughly 82 percent of the costs of all circulatory (heart and stroke) diseases

  11. How are the costs paid for? • Workers' compensation covered roughly 27 percent of all costs. • Taxpayers paid approximately 18 percent of these costs through contributions to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. • Costs were borne by injured workers and their families, by all other workers through lower wages, by firms through lower profits, and by consumers through higher prices.

  12. Occupational Health in Agriculture • Agriculture remains one of the most dangerous industries in the United States.

  13. Focus on Agriculture - Details • In 2009, for every 100,000 agricultural workers in the U.S. there were 26 occupational deaths in agriculture. This compares to an average rate of 3.3 deaths for every 100,000 workers in all other industries. • In 2009, the agriculture industry had the highest worker fatality rate with 551 occupational deaths. • The agricultural industry is second in the rate of reported nonfatal injuries and illnesses per 100,000 workers. Only the Educational and Health services industry has a higher rate.

  14. Focus on Agriculture - Impact • While adults are at risk for death and injuries while working in agriculture, children workers experience an even greater threat to their health and well-being. • According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), every day, about 243 agricultural workers suffer lost-work-time injuries, and about 5 percent of these result in permanent impairment.

  15. Farmworker Demographics • 78 percent of all farmworkers were foreign born • 75 percent were born in Mexico. Others come from other countries in Central America or from the Caribbean. • 81 percent of farmworkers surveyed spoke Spanish as a first language and 18 percent spoke English, while two percent spoke other languages such as Haitian Creole or Mixteco.

  16. Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers

  17. Farmworker Work Experience • A majority of farmworkers were paid by the hour, with an average wage of $7.25 per hour. Others were paid by the piece, or a combination of both. • Farmworkers worked an average of 42 hours per week

  18. Regulation of the Farm Work Place • There are many federal laws in place that govern the safety of the work place and aim to protect workers rights. These laws supposedly govern all workplaces, including farms. From minimum wage rates to employment of children to occupational safety regulations, agricultural employers are subject to restrictions. However, in several important instances, federal law treats hired farmworkers different than employers in other industries. • In several important instances, federal law treats hired farmworkers different than employers in other industries. • Workers Compensation • Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 • Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA) • Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSAWPA) (1983) • Field Sanitation Standard (1987)

  19. Fair Labor Standards Act • This important federal law governs workplace standards, such as minimum wage rates, hours you can work, pay for overtime work, employment of children, etc.

  20. Occupational Health and Safety Act • This federal law requires employers to furnish their employees with employment and a workplace free from recognized hazards that cause, or could cause death, harm, or serious injury. This law created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA).

  21. Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Protection Act • This federal law governs the recruitment, hiring, and providing of certain services to hired farm workers by farm labor contractors and crew 1eaders. • This law requires that motor vehicle safety and housing standards be met. If provided, housing must be inspected and meet minimum standards and transportation must be safe and appropriately licensed.

  22. Pesticide Safety Regulations • These federal laws governs agricultural pesticides used for commercial production purposes and includes provisions for worker health and safety. These laws include: • Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) • Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) • Worker Protection Standard (WPS) (1992) • Food Quality and Protection Act (FQPA) (1996) • These laws govern things such as proper labeling of pesticides, the maximum amount of pesticide that can be found in produce, and workers rights when working with pesticides or in fields that have been sprayed with pesticides.

  23. Occupational Health Status of Farmworkers

  24. Musculoskeletal Injuries • Work related musculoskeletal disorders are among the most common problems facing farmworkers. • Because farm labor consists of constant bending, twisting, carrying heavy items, and repetitive motions during long work hours, farmworkers often experience musculoskeletal injuries.

  25. Pesticide Related Illness • During their daily work, farmworkers are often exposed to pesticides, which include substances that prevent, destroy or repel pests. • Farmworkers frequently encounter pesticides through direct contact with the chemicals, contact with pesticide residue on treated crops or equipment, and drift of pesticides into untreated areas.

  26. Pesticide Related Illness • Farmworkers can also transport pesticides from the fields into their homes through residue on their clothing, boots and skin. • Studies indicate that pesticide exposure is associated with chronic health problems such as: • Respiratory problems • Memory disorders • Dermatologic conditions • Cancer • Depression • Neurologic deficits • Miscarriages and infertility • Birth defects

  27. Heat and Sun Exposure • Farmworkers work under the suns harsh and hot rays for 10-to-12 hours a day, often with little access to shade or water. • From 1992 to 2006, 423 workers in the United States died from heat exhaustion

  28. Skin Disorders/Dermatitis • The agriculture industry has the highest incidence of skin diseases when compared with all other industrial sectors. • Of the studies done on skin disorders and farmworkers, the more common described by farmworkers were sunburn, fungal infections, skin rashes, and itchy skin.

  29. Eye Injuries • Chronic irritation and sun can cause cataracts, a clouding of the eye lens, and pterygium, a growth that obstructs the cornea.  • Agricultural workers experience eye injuries and illness at a rate of 8.7 per 10,000 workers. This is more than two times higher than the rate of 3.8 per 10,000 for general workers in the U.S.

  30. Infectious Diseases • Farmworkers are also at risk for infectious diseases. • Infectious diseases among the farmworker population are often a result of poor sanitation and crowded conditions at work and housing sites, including inadequate washing and drinking water.

  31. Respiratory Illnesses • Farmworkers who work in the following areas are most at risk for respiratory illnesses from: • Dusty fields and buildings • Handling of moldy hay, grain, corn, etc… • Working in silos or with feed • Working around bird droppings or dust from animal hair, fur, or feathers. • Farmworkers have a significantly higher death rate for a number of respiratory conditions, including asthma, bronchitis, histoplasmosis, tuberculosis, pneumonia, and influenza.

  32. Machine Safety • Tractor injuries are always among the most common causes of fatal occupational injuries in agriculture • Studies also show that farmworkers are at risk for injury when operating other machines such as: • Trucks • Harvesting machines • Mowing machines • General agriculture machines such as saws, axes, clippers, etc.

  33. Transportation • Transportation to and from work can also be an occupational hazard for farmworkers. • While data on this is scarce, one study of farmworker deaths across 24 states found that 35% of occupational related deaths among farmworker were attributed to motor vehicle accidents.

  34. Resources • National Agricultural Workers Survey - http://www.doleta.gov/agworker/report9/toc.cfm • National Center for Farmworker Health – www.ncfh.org • Farmworker Justice- http://www.fwjustice.org/ • NIOSH Agricultural Centers - http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/agctrhom.html