The North Central Regional (NCR) 197 committee was established in 2000 by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, to utilize the land-grant research and extension systems, in conjunction with agricultural producers, to reduce agricultural work-related property losses, injuries, illnesses, and deaths. The NCR 197 committee was reappointed and renamed the North Central Education/Extension Research Activity (NCERA) 197 in 2005 and reappointed again in 2011.
The original NCR 197 committee developed the National Land-Grant Research and Extension Agenda for Agricultural Safety and Health: National Agenda for Action, a prioritized list of 12 major issues in agricultural safety and health research and extension. This article outlines the 12 prioritized areas that the NCR 197 committee identified and the NCERA 197 committee continues to address:
- Sensors and guarding systems
- Operation of agricultural equipment on public roads
- Agricultural confined spaces
- Emerging technologies
- Human factors in engineering and design
- Management of agricultural emergencies
- Livestock handling and housing systems
- Public policy issues
- Capital- and management-intensive operations vs. family-labor-intensive operations
- Fire detection and suppression
- Agricultural safety education and training
- Special populations and enterprises
Sensors and Guarding Systems
The National Agenda for Action points out that the majority of agricultural-related injuries and fatalities are due to tractor overturns, incidents involving machinery and equipment, and exposure to toxic environments. Emerging sensor technology needs to be adapted to agricultural workplaces to identify, monitor, and provide warnings about hazards. Examples of sensors and guarding systems include:
- enhanced rollover protective structures (ROPSs),
- stability indicators,
- lockout systems,
- machine guarding,
- environment monitors, and
- global positioning systems (GPSs).
Operation of Agricultural Equipment on Public Roads
Public roads are one of the NCERA 197 committee’s priorities because of the potential for deadly encounters between motor vehicles and agricultural equipment. Areas requiring continued research and education include:
- high-speed agricultural equipment,
- lighting and marking of equipment,
- rural road design,
- specialized vehicles (such as horse-drawn buggies), and
- hazardous material transportation.
Agricultural Confined Spaces
Confined spaces in production agriculture, such as manure storage areas and fuel storage areas, which continue to increase in scale and use, are accompanied by their own set of safety concerns. The National Agenda for Action calls for a focus on confined spaces that includes:
- rescue procedures,
- facility design,
- fall protection systems,
- safe entry procedures,
- gas monitoring,
- warning systems, and
- ventilation systems.
Changes in technology regarding production and efficiency are inevitable, but the potential hazards introduced by such changes need to be examined to develop the most useful and safest product designs. The National Agenda for Action recommends that attention should be given to technologies involving:
- automatic pilot,
- genetically modified organisms (GMOs),
- high-speed equipment,
- sludge application,
- driverless tractors, and
Human Factors in Engineering and Design
An agricultural operation could not survive without its workforce, so the National Agenda for Action emphasizes the importance of examining workplace safety and working conditions. Potential research areas include, but are not limited to:
- accommodations for disabilities,
- gender issues,
- effects of long-term exposure to vibration and weather,
- musculoskeletal disorders, and
- the prevention of secondary injuries.
Management of Agricultural Emergencies
Land-grant institutions continue to play a vital role in the development of resources and training for emergency preparedness for all types of emergencies in rural communities. The National Agenda for Action calls for continued attention to such topics as:
- severe-weather preparedness,
- responses to agroterrorism and chemical spills, and
- rural fire prevention and response.
Livestock Handling and Housing Systems
Most agricultural operations have livestock, and the National Agenda for Action notes that focus must be maintained on production practices and their effects on both livestock and humans to reflect the growth in livestock processes and facilities. Potential areas of research include:
- livestock-handling equipment,
- zoonotic diseases, and
- human-and-animal interactions.
Public Policy Issues
Farms and ranches are exempt from some worker safety and health regulations that apply to other workplaces. The NCERA 197 committee will consider how public policy issues relate to youth workers, uninsured workers, and agricultural operations that now employ larger numbers of people. Examples of public policy issues to be addressed include:
- funding for safety initiatives,
- liability issues,
- rural-to-urban interfaces, and
- workers’ compensation.
Capital- and Management-Intensive Operations vs. Family-Labor-Intensive Operations
The differences between large corporate farms and family farms continue to pose challenges to research and delivery methods for agricultural safety and health information and training. The Cooperative Extension System continues to bring research-based information from the institution level to the producer level; however, the NCERA 197 committee asserts that delivery and dissemination models require further examination. Some areas that require focus include:
- the design of small-scale equipment,
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards and exemptions,
- effects of safety management practices on profitability,
- labor issues,
- health care, and
- disability benefits.
Fire Detection and Suppression
Fires can be devastating for agricultural operations because of the presence of livestock and costly equipment and the distance from local fire protection services. Early detection of fires and preparedness are vital to reducing the financial and human loss associated with a fire. The National Agenda for Action defines the following priority areas:
- electrical standards,
- extinguishing agents,
- fire detection and monitoring, and
- training of rural firefighters.
Agricultural Safety Education and Training
Land-grant institutions provide essential safety and health education through the county extension system. The research-based information and programs developed and evaluated at land-grant institutions are delivered through the Cooperative Extension System in effective formats to families, youths, and producers. Potential research topics identified by the National Agenda for Action include:
- the development and testing of risk assessment tools,
- evaluation of teaching methodologies (computer, Web-based, and so on),
- the needs of special populations, and
- evaluation of the effectiveness of safety and training curricula.
Special Populations and Enterprises
The farm or ranch workforce, including owners, operators, and workers, continues to diversify in terms of culture, ethnicity, age, gender, and level of education. Due to this diversity, a single approach to education is not feasible. The land-grant institutions continue to explore teaching-delivery systems that will address the needs of a diverse workforce. The NCERA 197 committee notes that further research is needed to:
- develop and test culturally sensitive safety and health resources,
- understand how gender affects safety, and
- address the issues of low literacy rates, secondary injuries, and injuries to youth.
Click HERE to view the National Agenda for Action for complete details about the 12 priority areas of the committee.
Click HERE to access Special Issue – November/December 2017, Resource engineering and technology for a sustainable world. Safety, American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers magazine. Link: https://www.asabe.org/Portals/0/aPubs/Resource/PDF/Resource24-06NovDec20….
National land-grant research and extension agenda for agricultural safety and health: National agenda for action. (2003) NCR 197 Committee on Agricultural Safety and Health Research and Extension. Retrieved from http://articles.extension.org/sites/default/files/National%20Land%20Gran….
Reviewed and Summarized by:
Linda M. Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University – email@example.com