NCERA197: Agricultural Safety and Health Research and Extension
(Multistate Research Coordinating Committee and Information Exchange Group)
NCERA197: Agricultural Safety and Health Research and Extension
Duration: 10/01/2020 to 09/30/2025
Statement of Issues and Justification
Agriculture has the highest traumatic injury and fatality rates when compared to other U.S. industries. Recent reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate the rate of fatal agricultural injuries are significantly higher than the average worker fatality rate with 23.0/100,000 full time employees (FTE) in agriculture and 3.5/100,000 FTE in all other industries (BLS, 2017). In 2017, private construction had the highest count of fatal injuries, but the private agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting sector had the highest fatal work injury rate (NSC, 2019). The occupation of farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers ranked eighth for the highest published rates of fatal injury (BLS, 2017). Nonfatal injuries averaged 17,766 lost time cases per year, for the five-year period of 2013-2017 (NSC, 2019). Male farm workers represented 76.3% of those injured on farms and ranches in 2017, while female workers were 23.7% (NSC, 2019). Many agricultural workers are at a greater risk for health and safety issues because of social and economic factors limitations (NORA, 2019). These estimates are conservative, as they do not include the vast majority of farms (78%) that employ less than 10 workers (NIOSH AFF Centers, 2012; NSC, 2019). Seven out of 10 of these smaller farms that experienced a fatality to the principal operator of the farms have to be sold, and the families that live there have to move which creates a ripple that carries throughout the economic and social well-being of a community (NIOSH AFF Centers, 2012).
Ongoing research and surveillance are yielding the scientific basis that supports the need for more effective and extensive interventions. The agricultural industry is in need of economical and viable means to reduce the occupational injury and illness risk among farm workers. While other organizations have the expertise to support surveillance and epidemiological research, they have limited expertise of agricultural systems and rural information dissemination, and they lack the networking capability that will yield economically viable solutions to agricultural safety and health issues that will be broadly adopted by the agricultural industry. The Agricultural Experiment Stations and Cooperative Extension System have expertise in agricultural systems and agricultural safety and health issues but need the coordinating structure a multi-state research committee provides in identification and coordination of research and extension priorities. This is apparent from previous outputs and outcomes of this committee.
Initiated in 2000 the NCR197 committee developed a strategy to utilize the Land Grant System's research and extension capacity in cooperation with the experience of those who live and work in agriculture to reduce work-related injuries, illness, and death. This group produced a National Land Grant Research and Extension Agenda for Agricultural Safety and Health: National Agenda for Action (Committee on Agricultural Safety and Health Research and Extension, 2003) document. This national agenda provides a prioritized list of 12 research and extension areas with 115 individual topics relating to agricultural safety and health in which research or extension gaps exist. This historical document marks the first agricultural safety and health agenda for action by the land grant system since 1943 when the first cooperative extension specialist for farm safety was appointed in Wisconsin. The national agenda document has been used by the Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing (AgFF) Sector Council of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) as a resource document for their National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) plans, and the Agricultural Safety & Health Council of America (ASHCA) as a resource document. Additionally, the Canadian government used this document as the foundation for their agricultural safety strategic plan.
In 2005, the NCR197 committee was re-appointed under the revised name North Central Education/Extension Research Activity Committee (NCERA) 197. This committee selected Agricultural Equipment on Public Roads, one of the 12 priorities in the national land grant research and extension agenda for agricultural safety and health, and produced a comprehensive white paper to: a) help identify research, policy and extension/outreach priorities for the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Transportation, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, state departments of agriculture, transportation and law enforcement, county governments, and production agriculture based organizations; and b) identify possible design and practice standards, goals, or guidelines for farm equipment manufacturers, standard setting organizations, and government agencies (Committee on Agricultural Safety and Health Research and Extension, 2009). This document has been distributed widely across the U.S and Canada, featured at a major conference on crashes between motor vehicles and farm equipment and has been used as a reference by a legislative task force. Since that first white paper, two additional papers have been written; the topics were confined spaces (2016) and All-Terrain Vehicles (2019).
In 2010, the NCERA197 committee was re-appointed and selected to continue their work on safety and health in and around agricultural confined spaces. Based upon activities related to the development of the original NCERA197 research and extension agenda, it was determined that there existed significant research gaps with respect to needed engineering, educational, and legislative controls designed to reduce the frequency and severity of confined spaces-related incidents in agricultural workplaces. As a result, a summary of research literature, engineering needs and outreach opportunities was developed and presented at international meetings. Other outputs from this effort include an agricultural confined space white paper (2016), journal publications, a national conference, increased research funding at land grant universities, and new and improved safety and health standards. Other objectives for the committee were to increase infrastructure for agricultural safety and health within the Land Grant System and reach out to new audiences. This was accomplished by the development of a new Community of Practice at www.eXtension.org/AgSafety.
In 2015, the NCERA 197 committee was again re-appointed for a 5-year period. During this time, the Committee re-evaluated the National Agenda for Action to accommodate the guidance it provides to land grant researchers and educators to prioritize agricultural safety and health issues. Stronger relationships were formed with supporting organizational members from ASABE and NIOSH Agricultural Centers to support the Committee’s mission. Additional outputs from this time period include an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) white paper (2019, forthcoming) and corresponding conference presentations; and improved ASABE standards with farm machinery. New audiences were reached externally with international representation on the committee and sub-committees, and new members were added to the membership roster of the NCERA 197 Committee.
Throughout the current project, the full committee investigated new areas of agricultural safety and health research and Extension to be pursued in the next proposal. A survey of state Extension leaders was conducted by a current member to determine capacity for agricultural safety and health within the Midwest region. A select group of committee members representing Extension-based agricultural safety and health professionals was convened to discuss future directions and emphasis of the NCERA 197. In each approach, the results were to continue and expand our reach within the land grant system to build additional capacity for agricultural safety and health. This expansion is two-fold in that there are specific topic areas for farm worker safety and health to be addressed, as well as the critical shortage of agricultural occupational health and safety professionals serving the farm workers in all states of the U.S. Both of these expansions are intentionally specified in the next 5-year proposal. It is through these collective multi-state efforts that our work in this discipline continues to address the most prevalent needs of agricultural safety and health.
Therefore it is proposed that NCERA 197 will: a) summarize the research literature, engineering needs and outreach opportunities related to the high injury causing agents in agricultural safety and health; b) encourage collaborative research and outreach opportunities with land grant universities and other stakeholder agencies/organizations to address critical best management practices for agricultural workers; and c) increase the infrastructure support for agricultural safety and health by leveraging funds, building awareness with policy makers, and bolstering professional development training for professionals serving the agricultural communities with science/evidence based practices in agricultural safety and health.
Continue to promote the National Agenda for Action document (NCERA 197 Committee, 2003) that was last reviewed in 2017, to provide guidance to land grant researchers and educators for prioritizing agricultural safety and health issues.
Develop a white paper that addresses a priority safety or health topic affecting agriculture.
Enhance 1862, 1890, and 1994 land grant institutions’ participation in the National Agenda for Action while collaborating with strategic partners to intensify regional, national, and international impact on agricultural safety and health issues.
Encourage research, teaching, and outreach of agricultural best management practices in partnership with land grant universities to address global safety and health issues associated with agricultural injuries.
Encourage development of new and improved standards, as well as adoption of current standards, to reduce hazard and risk exposures within agriculture.
Work to ensure sustainability of agricultural safety and health efforts, capacities, and impact by: ensuring a pipeline of dedicated safety and health professionals who are educated in the science and evidence based practices; leverage existing partnerships, capacities, organizations, and resources; build awareness of needs among policy makers, agricultural organizations, university and government administrators, and others.
Procedures and Activities
The NCERA 197 Committee will create a supportive environment for agricultural safety and health by widely communicating our proposal and attracting needed expertise to the committee. A face-to-face organizational meeting will be held early in the first year of the project and convene annually thereafter. The full committee will have one mid-year video conference call, and sub-committee meetings will convene as needed for their body of work.
Activities for Objective 1 will be to promote the revised National Agenda for Action and share widely with key stakeholders and special interest groups. The priority areas will be used to create position statements, whereby evidence-based information can convey the Committee’s stance regarding an issue of importance for safe practices. Also included within Objective 1 is the specific intent to promote the development of outreach materials for addressing emergency preparedness and responding to emergencies (Priority Area 6 in the National Agenda for Action, 2003.
Activities for Objective 2 will include a comprehensive review of an emerging topic area to more fully inform audiences of a specific issue within agricultural safety and health. Through this means, additional experts may be included on sub-committees to ensure complex problems are fully addressed. The outcome of this objective is to better understand an issue, make recommendations for solutions, and create additional calls for action that may impact public policy. Emerging priority areas include: stress and mental health, physical disabilities, ergonomics, and other health implications; emerging technologies within production practices; education and training strategies; special concerns for small farm and large farms; and effects of safety and health policy and regulations within the agricultural industry.
Activities for Objective 3 will elicit widespread involvement and engagement of other professionals to intensify their participation in the National Agenda for Action. Through this means, land grants from 1862, 1890, and 1994 institutions will be encouraged to have representation on the full Committee or sub-committees of NCERA 197. USDA-NIFA Program Leaders will be informed of Committee actions and issues so that agricultural safety and health concerns can be vetted within their respective program areas. On the national, state, and local levels, the Committee will engage with professional organizations, agricultural machinery and equipment manufacturers, government organizations, insurance providers, education organizations, and international groups on safety and health issues. The outcome of this objective will track efforts and impacts from entities outside the NCERA 197 Committee membership (i.e. high schools, AgrAbility, small and beginning farmers, women in agriculture, and other related programs) to report how they have enhanced participation in agricultural safety and health topics.
Activities for Objective 4 will begin with encouragement of land grant universities and other institutions of higher education with career track majors involving production agriculture to formally teach agricultural safety and health courses. Professional development will be encouraged for Extension professionals to increase the capacity to support farmers and ranchers with safety and health issues. And expected output under this objective is to develop foundational tenets of evidence-based train-the-trainer programs on agricultural safety and health topics including the use of digital badges, Apps, and eLearning methodologies.
Activities for Objective 5 will incorporate American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) and other standard developing organizations into formal Committee work. Through collaboration with industry partners, it is possible to mitigate through design and standard operating procedures those hazards and risks associated with agriculture.
Activities for Objective 6 will focus on sustainability and expansion of efforts within the agricultural safety and health profession. Strategies for achieving this objective include: a) enhancing NCERA 197 participation with 1862, 1890, and 1994 universities via capacity building grants and other mechanisms to ensure safety and health resources are available to all in North America, not just the North Central Region; b) encouraging and supporting positions of “Agricultural Safety and Health Specialists’ in land grant institutions to study, research, advise, teach agricultural safety issues and problems in each state; c) developing and coordinating formal mentorships between senior, junior and prospective faculty/professionals; d) providing appropriate recognition of researchers and educators who are addressing critical agricultural safety and health issues through nominations to current award mechanisms or creation of new mechanisms; e) maintaining a current inventory of ongoing research and extension activities being conducted by various components of the land grant system; f) continuing to support the availability of online resources (e.g. Ag Safety and Health Community of Practice through eXtension, National Ag Safety Database, and National Electronic Injury Surveillance Systems with agricultural-related capacity); g) addressing the need for new mechanisms for program delivery, including Smart and digital technologies; and h) pressing the need for additional funding to be allocated to agricultural safety and health issues by creating a new committee within the NCERA system that is eligible for internal funds and experiment state acknowledgement.
Expected Outcomes and Impacts
- The National Agenda for Action will be a cornerstone document supporting agricultural safety and health issues and will be cited by others engaged in priority setting in their respective professions.
- The production of one or more white papers that can be utilized to support other stakeholders and policy makers for best management practices and recommendations of agricultural safety and health issues.
- The development of a supportive environment for information exchange, applied research opportunities, creation of outreach resources, and professional development concerning hazards and risks associated with agricultural injuries for a wider distribution of injury prevention strategies in the nation.
- Creation of various mechanisms to increase infrastructural support for the agricultural safety and health discipline.
Projected ParticipationView Appendix E: Participation
This committee, established in 2000, has a long-standing record of exchange for research and educational programming information through its annual meetings, publications, conference presentations, news releases and websites. The group uses opportunities such as open forums, concurrent educational programs, and invited presentations at professional meetings to distribute information and engage external stakeholder groups. The 2020-25 project will add new members to the full Committee and engage additional external audiences, including leaders in federal positions and public policy agencies. Participants with an outreach and extension role will further disseminate best management practices within the agricultural community.
There will be two officers for NCERA 197. A secretary and chair will be elected every two years at the appropriate annual meeting. The secretary records and distributes minutes of the annual meeting, and shares responsibility with the chair to prepare official communications to the administrative advisor, NIMSS, and other external parties. Upon completion of the 2-yr term, the secretary becomes chair of the committee for the following two years. The chair serves as the liaison between the committee and the administrative advisor, directs the activities of the committee, and makes arrangements for Committee meetings. Subcommittees will be named by the chair as needed for specific assignments.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Occupational Research Agenda for Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing Sector Council. 2019. Accessible at http://cdc.gov/nora/councils/agff/default.html.
- Committee on Agricultural Safety and Health Research and Extension. 2003. National land grant research and extension agenda for agricultural safety and health. Iowa State University, Reference No. EDC-292. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University. 18 pp. Accessible at http://lib.dr.iastate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1122&context=abe_eng_pubs
- Committee on Agricultural Safety and Health Research and Extension. 2009. Agricultural Equipment on Public Roads. USDA-CSREES, Washington, DC. Accessible at https://lib.dr.iastate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1121&context=abe_eng_pubs
- Committee on Agricultural Safety and Health Research and Extension. 2016. Agricultural Confined Spaces. USDA-CSREES, Washington, DC. Accessible at https://articles.extension.org/sites/default/files/ConfinedSpaces.pdf
- Committee on Agricultural Safety and Health Research and Extension. 2019, forthcoming. All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV). USDA-CSREES, Washington, DC.
- National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing Centers. 2012. NIOSH AFF center fact sheet. Retrieved from http://www.marshfieldclinic.org/proxy/mcrf-centers-nfmc-nccrahsniosh_aff_centers_fact_sheet.1.pdf
- National Safety Council, Injury Facts. 2019. NSC. Itasca, IL. Accessible at http://injuryfacts.nsc.org/work/industry-incidence-rates/industry-profiles.
- U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries – Current and Revised Data. 2017. Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. Accessible at http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshcfoi1.htm.