Head Protection for Agricultural Workers


Use the following format to cite this article:

Head protection for agricultural workers. (2013) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://articles.extension.org/pages/69134/head-protection-for-agricultur….

 

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is important for agricultural producers to reduce their risk of injury or death. Most injuries to the head can be prevented by wearing the appropriate PPE. Proper head protection can mean the difference between a traumatic brain injury and a mild concussion. The two basic types of head protection are hard hats and bump caps. Each is designed for specific tasks because of their level of protection in the event of the following types of incidents:

  • Potential for objects to fall from above and strike a worker on the head,
  • Workers can bump their head against an object, or
  • Potential for head contact with an electrical hazard.

Hard Hats

Hard Hat

(Photo Source: NIOSH, Division of Safety Research)

The purpose of a hard hat is to reduce the force of impact from falling objects (e.g., tools, wood, limbs, etc.). A hard outer shell is made of aluminum, fiberglass, or plastic. Newer hard hat shells are made of lightweight thermoplastic resin, which is highly impact resistant and has good dielectric (nonconductor of electric current) properties. The suspension system is made of plastic, nylon, or combination and is the energy-absorbing mechanism. It has crown straps that fit over the person’s head with an adjustable headband and protective padding to provide a barrier between the hat and the head. Protective headgear must fit appropriately on the body and head size of each individual.

Hard hats should be worn when completing activities such as building, demolishing or repairing structures, around or under conveyor belts, operating or repairing equipment, felling or trimming trees, etc. If your farm or ranch is subject to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations because you employ more than 10 people, the employer must have each employee wear a protective helmet when working in an area where there is a potential for a head injury.

Bump Caps

The purpose of a bump cap is to protect workers from common bumps and scrapes sustained when working in close quarters or under low ceilings. This type of head protection is lightweight with a thinner shell compared to a hard hat and has no suspension system. A bump cap only protects a person from bumps and minor head injuries. It provides absolutely no impact protection and should never be worn in areas with falling objects.

Head Protection Standards

Standards for hard hats are outlined by the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) and the American National Standard Institute (ANSI). Choose a hard hat that meets the recommended standards which should be labeled ANSI/ISEA Z89.1 – 2009 or ANSI/ISEA Z89.1 – 2014. In regards to hard hats, they are categorized into either Type I or Type II helmets. Type I helmets provide impact and penetration resistance for only the top of the hard hat. In addition to the protection of a Type I helmet, the Type II also provides some protection to the front, rear, and sides of the head. Additional hard hat classifications exist for the potential of electrical contact. These classifications include Class C (conductive), Class G (general), and Class E (electrical). No electric contact protection is provided by a Class C hard hat and the Class G is tested only at 2200 volts providing limited resistance to electricity. If there is any potential for electrical contact, choose a Class E hard hat because it is tested to withstand up to 20,000 volts of electricity. Standards are not applicable to bump caps.

The 2014 ANSI revision included changes in optional testing and marking features for head protection when used in high temperature environments.

Caring for Your Hard Hat

Just like a pre-operational check for equipment, it is also important to check your hard hat for any signs of damage (e.g., dents, cracks, etc.). If the hard hat is damaged, either replace the damaged parts or purchase a new one. Never attempt to fix a hard hat with adhesives because it could significantly weaken the impact quality or affect the dielectric protection. When checking your hard hat for damage, inspect the suspension part to ensure that the nylon is not broken and that the headband fits comfortably. Hard hats should be replaced at least every five years and the suspension should be replaced every 1 to 2 years.

When it comes to storing your hard hat, never store it where it is exposed to sunlight because the ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can damage and weaken the nonmetallic materials (e.g., plastic). UV damage can be seen on the shell by areas of dullness called chalking. These areas can begin to flake and degrade the surface. Replace your hard hat if chalking exists.

Symptom and Treatment for Head Injuries

The brain is a very fragile organ and floats inside the skull attached by a network of delicate fibers. An impact to the head can cause blood vessels to tear inside the brain resulting in swelling. If a person sustains a head injury that results in unconsciousness, they probably have a brain injury and emergency medical services should be contacted immediately. Never apply pressure to a bleeding head wound because the pressure may push bone fragments into the person’s brain.

If the person is unconscious for only a few minute, they may have a mild concussion but should return to normal function within about 45 minutes. However, evidence of a head injury may not appear for several hours. Therefore, it is important to monitor the victim for 48 hours and contact a physician if you observe any of the ten following signs:

  • Fluid or blooding coming from the nose or ears,
  • Bruising around the eyes or ears,
  • Persistent vomiting,
  • Large or unresponsive pupils,
  • Loss of coordination,
  • Difficulty speaking,
  • Severe and worsening headache,
  • Double vision,
  • Excessive drowsiness, and
  • Convulsions

Resources:

For more information, click on a related personal protective topic below:

Eye Protection for Agricultural Producers

Hearing Loss and Protection for Agricultural Producers

Respiratory Protection for the Farm and Ranch

 

Use the following format to cite this article:

Head protection for agricultural workers. (2013) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://articles.extension.org/pages/69134/head-protection-for-agricultur….

Sources:

American National Standard Institute and International Safety Equipment Association, 2014, ANSI/ISEA Z89.1-2014 – American National Standard for Indus­trial Head Protection, New York, NY. Retrieved from https://safetyequipment.org/standard/ansiisea-z89-1-2014/.

Jepsen, S.D. & Suchy, J. (2015) Head protection. The Ohio State University. Retrieved from http://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/aex-7905.

Murphy, D. & Harshman, W. (2012) Head, eye, and foot protection for farm workers. Penn State Extension. Retrieved from https://extension.psu.edu/head-eye-and-foot-protection-for-farm-workers.

Personal protective equipment. (2003) Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Retrieved from http://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3151.pdf.

Wearing a hard hat is only half the job. (2007) Occupational Health & Safety. Retrieved from http://ohsonline.com/articles/2007/03/wearing-a-hard-hat-is-only-half-th….

 

Reviewed and Summarized by:
Prosper Doamekpor – Tuskegee University – doamekpor@mytu.tuskegee.edu
Linda M. Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University – lmf8@psu.edu
Dennis J. Murphy, Pennsylvania State University (Has since retired)
Brandon Takacs, West Virginia University – Brandon.Takacs@mail.wvu.edu
Aaron M. Yoder, University of Nebraska Medical Center – aaron.yoder@unmc.edu

Occupational Health and Safety Video Resources


Falls and Fall Prevention

Topic Titles Organization Resource Type

Fall from Heights (2012)

31:17 minutes

Kansas State University Free – Online video via YouTube

Ladder Injuries (2015)

10 video series

English and Spanish

U.S. Agricultural Safety and Health Centers Free – Online videos via YouTube

Same-Level Falls (2012)

27:45 minutes

Kansas State University Free – Online video via YouTube

Solutions to Reduce Slips and Falls (2009)

3:18 minutes

West Virginia University – Center for Excellence in Disabilities Free – Online video via YouTube

Overview of Workplace Falls (2012)

4:31 minutes

Kansas State University Free – Online video via YouTube

Health Conditions

Topic Titles Organization Resource Type

Gaining Ground on Arthritis: Managing Arthritis in the Agricultural Workplace (2007)

16:53 minutes

Breaking New Ground Resource Center at Purdue University Free – Online video via YouTube

Hearing Damage (2011)

1:41 minutes

Canadian Agricultural Safety Association Free – Online video via YouTube

Prevention of Musculoskeletal Injuries (2011)

3:53 minutes

Canadian Agricultural Safety Association Free – Online video via YouTube

Protect Your Joints (2010)

0.52 seconds

National AgrAbility  – Purdue University Free – Online video via YouTube

Personal Protective Equipment

Topic Titles Organization Resource Type

Agricultural Respiratory Protection – How to Get the Right Fit (2012)

6:53 minutes

Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health Free – Online video via YouTube

Agricultural Respiratory Protection – How to Properly Care for Your Mask (2012)

6:08 minutes

Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health Free – Online video via YouTube

Choosing the Right Mask for Your Agricultural Job (2012)

4:37 minutes

Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health Free – Online video via YouTube

Respirators (2011)

3:12 minutes

Canadian Agricultural Safety Association Free – Online video via YouTube

Respiratory Protection in Agricultural Settings – Understanding the Risks (2012)

3:26 minutes

Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health Free – Online video via YouTube

Skin Cancer Prevention for the Agricultural Employee (2004)

16:00 minutes

University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Available for purchase – $10/DVD

Sound Advice for Farming (2005)

6:00 minutes

Contact Dr. Deborah Reed at University of Kentucky at dbreed01@uky.edu Available for purchase – $10/video


Weather-Related Issues

Topic Title Organization Resource Type

Heat Illness (2014)

(Series of 6 videos – English and Spanish)

U.S. Agricultural Safety & Health Centers Free – Online video via YouTube

Summer Safety – Heat Stroke (2009)

1:21 minutes

University of Arkansas Free – Online video via YouTube

Wyoming Ag Producers and Skin Cancer (2010)

3:24 minutes

University of Wyoming Free – Online Video via You Tube

 

Eye Protection for Agricultural Workers


Use the following format to cite this article:

Eye protection. (2013). Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/66976/eye-protection-for-agricultural-workers.

 

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is important for agricultural producers to reduce their risk of injury or death. Most eye injuries can be prevented by wearing the appropriate PPE.

Injuries to the eye can be expensive, painful, and may cause partial or total blindness. Proper eye protection is the best strategy in preventing eye injuries because most eye injuries are a result of flying particles. The eye has its own built-in protection from the surrounding bone structure, eyelashes, tearing, and blinking; but they are no match for particles entering the eye at a high rate of speed. Eye protection should be worn when completing the following types of jobs: feed grinding, handling chemicals, haying, welding, repairing equipment, and any task completed in a dusty environment.

Types of Eye Protection

There are 5 types of eye protection. Choose the type that best suits your vision and provides the best protection for the job that you are completing.

Basic Safety Glasses

Safety Glasses

(Source: Pennsylvania State University. Agricultural Safety and Health)

A pair of basic safety glasses provides protection when there is potential for particles to enter the eye from the front. Safety lenses in regular eyeglass frames are not considered suitable safety glasses. Most basic safety glasses do not provide side protection, but side protection is available on some safety glasses through either permanent or detachable side shields to protect the eye from above, below and on the sides. When choosing safety glasses with side protection, make sure that the sides do not interfere with your peripheral vision.

Prescription Safety Glasses

Prescription safety glasses are made of either plastic or metal and are available in both bifocals and tinted lenses. Use caution when choosing tinted lenses because these lenses take time for the tinting to disappear which can be hazardous when frequently going between inside and outside work areas. Choose tint lenses when activities may include bright flashes of light.

 Goggles

Goggles provide inexpensive protection from all angles because they fit snugly around the eyes. This type of eye protection is especially good for jobs such as chainsaw operation, grinding, and riveting. Goggles are especially useful because they typically fit over most prescription eyeglasses and are usually ventilated with an anti-fog solution. Two of the most common models of goggles are eyecup or wire mesh. If working around chemicals, choose goggles with off-set ventilation ports.

Face Shields

Face shields are secondary protection and must be worn in conjunction with either glasses or goggles. This type of eye protection is especially designed to protect the user from heat, glare, and flying objects. Face shields can be attached to hard hats for those jobs that also require head protection.

Welding Helmets and Goggles

Welding Helmet

Welding Helmet. Photo source: Penn State University

 

A welding helmet is equipped with special filtering lenses that protect the eyes from the strong ultraviolet and infrared rays that can permanently damage eyes and cause blindness. Welding goggles have various filter lens shades to protect against sparks, rays, and flying particles. Talk with your local dealer to determine the filter lens shade that you need for the various types of welding. Stationary or lift-front lenses are available for both welding helmets and goggles.

 

Standards for Eye Protection

ANSI and ISEA standards for eye protection are determined based on the identified hazard in the workplace. Lenses that are ranked as basic are designated as Z87, but high impact lenses have a Z87+ designation.

Additional recommendations concerning eye protection include the following:

  • Do not share eye protection to reduce the risk of contracting a contagious eye disease from another worker.
  • Even though sunglasses are important for working outdoors, they are not considered to be eye protection.

Maintenance of Eye Protection

Regularly clean your protective eyewear in warm, soapy water because looking through dirty lenses can strain your eyes. Use a soft tissue or cloth to dry the lenses to reduce the risk of scratches because deep scratches or pitting may weaken the lenses. Goggles should fit snuggly over your eyes so replace elastic goggle headbands when they become stretched. Store your protective eyewear in a rigid case to reduce dust build-up and potential damage to delicate parts.

Maintain proper vision by having your eyes examined annually. Vision changes can occur that may require a prescription change or the need for prescription eye protection. If you wear contacts, always wear protective eyewear in work areas. The recommendation is to wear prescription eye protection instead of contacts especially in dusty environments because contact lenses may trap particles in the eye.

First Aid for Eye Injuries

The following chart outlines the first aid response to different eye injuries:

Type of Injury Proper Treatment Actions to Avoid
Foreign particle in the eye Flush the eye with water until the object rinses out. If unable to flush the particle out, cover the eye and seek medical attention. Do not rub your eye because your eye could be scratched or embed the object.
Object embedded in the eye Bandage both eyes and seek medical attention Do not attempt to remove the object.
Cut near the eye Loosely bandage both eyes and seek medical attention Do not rub, press, or wash the cut because it could cause further damage.
Bump or bruise near the eye Apply a cold compress for 15 minutes to reduce swell and seek medical attention.  
Welding arc burn Keep eyes closed and seek medical attention. The victim may or may not feel pain immediately but eye may be sensitive to light, red, or swollen for up 12 hours after the incident.  

Resources:

For more information, click on a related personal protective topic below:

Head Protection for Agricultural Producers

Hearing Loss and Protection for Agricultural Producers

Respiratory Protection for the Farm and Ranch

 

Click on one of the organization links below to purchase eye protection:

New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health

 

Use the following format to cite this article:

Eye protection. (2013). Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/66976/eye-protection-for-agricultural-workers.

 

Sources:

Harvesting health. (2010) National farm Medicine Center. Retrieved from http://www.marshfieldclinic.org/proxy/mcrf-centers-nfmc-resources-hh-eyeprotection1-10.1.pdf.

Murphy, D. & Harshman, W. (2012) Head, eye, and foot protection for farm workers. Penn State Extension. Retrieved from https://extension.psu.edu/head-eye-and-foot-protection-for-farm-workers.

 

Reviewed and Summarized by:
Linda M. Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University – lmf8@psu.edu
Prosper Doamekpor, Tuskegee University – doamekpor@mytu.tuskegee.edu
Dennis J. Murphy, Pennsylvania State University (Has since retired)
Aaron M. Yoder, University of Nebraska Medical Center – aaron.yoder@unmc.edu

Cold-Related Conditions and Agriculture

Winter Ranch Scene

Winter Scene

(Source: Wyoming AgrAbility)

Use the following format to cite this article:

Cold-related conditions and agriculture. (2012). Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/66813/cold-related-conditions-and-agriculture.

 

Farmers and ranchers complete tasks in all types of weather conditions. Extreme weather conditions put agricultural producers at risk for heat-related and cold-related illnesses and injuries. (Click here to view an article about heat-related illnesses) Individuals working in extremely cold or wet weather can experience such occupational health conditions as hypothermia, frostbite, trench foot, and chilblains.

The four environmental factors that cause cold-related illnesses are

  • low temperature,
  • strong and/or cool winds,
  • dampness, and
  • cold water.

The most dangerous factor in winter weather is wind chill, a measure of the rate at which skin exposed to the combined effects of wind and cold loses heat. When wind increases, the body loses heat at a faster rate, which causes body temperature to decrease.

Individuals generate body heat from food and through muscular activity and lose heat through convection, conduction, radiation, and sweating. In general, the processes of generating and losing body heat are balanced, resulting in a constant body temperature. When a person’s body temperature drops below the normal temperature of 98.6°F, he or she may experience blood vessel constriction and decreased peripheral blood flow, putting the person at risk for adverse cold-related conditions.

Cold-Related Conditions

Hypothermia

Hypothermia occurs when a person’s body is unable to produce heat and has used all its stored energy or is losing body heat faster than it can be produced. As a result, a person’s body temperature decreases. When a person’s body temperature drops below 95°F degrees, the heart, nervous system, and other organs can be adversely affected. The most common causes of hypothermia are exposure to cold weather and immersion in cold water.

Early Symptoms

  • Shivering
  • Decreased energy
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of coordination

Symptoms after Prolonged Exposure to Cold

  • Dilated pupils
  • Decreased pulse
  • Shallow breathing
  • Loss of consciousness

First Aid Response

  • Call 911 or emergency medical personnel.
  • Find a warm room or shelter and remove any wet clothing.
  • Drink a warm (nonalcoholic or caffeine-free) beverage if one is available.
  • Stay dry and warm by wrapping up in a blanket.
  • If you are assisting a person with hypothermia, and he or she does not have a pulse, begin cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR). (Click here to be directed to the article “Basic CPR.”)

Frostbite

Frostbite occurs when skin tissue freezes and loses water, leading to the potential for cell damage. Skin can freeze at temperatures of 30°F and below, and wind chill can also cause frostbite. Fingers, toes, cheeks, nose, and ears are the areas of the body most typically affected by frostbite. Frostbitten skin may look white or grayish yellow and may feel cold, hard, and possibly waxy to the touch.

Symptoms

  • Numbness
  • Aching
  • Tingling
  • Stinging

First Aid Response

  • Find a warm room or shelter.
  • Avoid walking if your feet or toes are frostbitten.
  • Soak affected areas in warm (not hot) water.
  • Avoid rubbing the affected area because rubbing could cause tissue damage.
  • Wrap affected area in a soft cloth.
  • Do not use a heating pad, fireplace, or radiator for warming.
  • Do not warm the area if there is a risk of refreezing.

Trench Foot

Trench foot occurs when a person’s feet have prolonged exposure to cold (60°F or less) and wet conditions. This condition is similar to frostbite but is typically less severe.

Symptoms

  • Reddening of the skin
  • Numbness
  • Leg cramps
  • Swelling
  • Tingling pain
  • Blisters or ulcers
  • Bleeding under the skin
  • Gangrene

First Aid Response

  • Remove shoes or boots and wet socks.
  • Dry the feet.
  • Avoid walking to reduce the risk of damage to foot tissue.

Chilblains

Chilblains are painful inflammations in small blood vessels in the skin that result from exposure to cold temperatures. The areas most commonly subject to chilblains include the toes, fingers, ears, and nose.

Symptoms

  • Redness
  • Blistering
  • Itching
  • Inflammation
  • Ulceration (in severe cases)

First Aid Response

  • Avoid scratching the affected skin.
  • Slowly warm the skin.
  • Use corticosteroid creams to relieve itching and swelling.
  • Keep blisters and ulcers clean and covered.

Preventing Cold-Related Conditions

There are several actions you can take to maintain a normal body temperature in cold and/or wet weather.

Clothing

  • Wear a minimum of three layers of clothing: an outer layer that breaks the wind, a middle layer that retains insulation, and an inner layer that allows for ventilation.
  • Have a change of clothes readily available in case your garments become wet.
  • Always protect your head and face because you can lose up to 40% of your body heat through your head.
  • Protect your feet from cold and dampness by wearing layered socks inside comfortable, insulated footwear.
  • Protect your hands with insulated gloves (dexterity can be affected at temperatures below 59ºF).

Environment

  • Use on-site sources of heat, such as air jets and radiant heaters, to provide warmth.
  • Make sure that a heated shelter or vehicle is available for anyone who has experienced prolonged exposure to wind chill temperatures below 20°F.
  • Reduce drafty or windy areas within buildings to shield work areas.
  • If the temperature drops below 30°F, use thermal insulating material on the handles of your equipment.
  • Avoid sitting or kneeling on cold, unprotected surfaces.

Personal Safety

  • If you suffer from a medical condition such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, spinal cord injury, arthritis, and so on, you may need to take special precautions when working in cold environments because you could be especially susceptible to cold-related illness and injury.
  • If you take prescription medication (heart medication, sedatives, and so on), check with your physician to determine whether you need to take any special precautions when working in the cold.
  • Never use alcohol or drugs when working in a cold environment because such substances increase heat loss and can impair judgment.
  • Know the signs and symptoms of cold-induced conditions and how to respond appropriately with first aid.  
  • Seek warm shelter if you experience symptoms (heavy shivering, severe fatigue, drowsiness, and so on) of cold-induced illnesses.
  • Avoid tasks that may cause excessive sweating.
  • Maintain energy and hydration by drinking warm caffeine-free, nonalcoholic beverages.
  • Stay in good physical condition.

Farm and Ranch Managers’ Responsibilities

If you are a farm or ranch manager, take the following precautions to keep your workers safe in cold and/or wet weather:

  • Allow workers to complete tasks at a comfortable pace and take extra breaks if needed.
  • In cold environments, be sure that workers always work in teams of two or more. 
  • If a job needs to be completed outside, schedule the job for the warmest part of the day.
  • When possible, move outdoor jobs to an enclosed area.
  • Discourage workers from sitting or standing for prolonged periods during cold weather.
  • Allow workers to acclimate themselves to the cold before they begin a task.
 

Use the following format to cite this article:

Cold-related conditions and agriculture. (2012). Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/66813/cold-related-conditions-and-agriculture.

 

Sources

Chilblains. (2010) Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chilblains/home/ovc-20165478.

Cold stress guide. (n.d.) United States Department of Labor. Retrieved from https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/emergencypreparedness/guides/cold.html.

Frostbite: First aid. (2011) Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/first-aid-frostbite/FA00023.

Hypothermia. (2011) Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hypothermia/DS00333.

Jepsen, S., McGuire, K., & Poland, D. (2011) Injury Prevention: Types of Cold Stress. The Ohio State University Extension. Retrieved from http://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/AEX-981.13.

Preventing cold-related illnesses in agricultural workers. (2011) Wyoming AgrAbility. Retrieved from http://www.uwyo.edu/agrability/fact_sheets/preventing_cold.pdf.

 

Reviewed and Summarized By:
Linda M. Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University – lmf8@psu.edu
Karen Funkenbusch, University of Missouri  FunkenbuschK@missouri.edu
Dennis J. Murphy, Pennsylvania State University – djm13@psu.edu
Ron Odell, Cactus Feeders  ron.odell@cactusfeeders.com
Aaron M. Yoder, University of Nebraska Medical Center – aaron.yoder@unmc.edu

 

Asthma and Agriculture


Use the following format to cite this article:

Asthma and agriculture. (2012). Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/66326/asthma-and-agriculture.

 

Asthma is characterized by airflow obstruction, bronchial hyper-responsiveness, and chronic inflammation of the airways. These responses cause wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing, and tightness in the chest. 

Asthma Types

The two most common types of asthma are allergic and nonallergic. The type of asthma depends on the triggers and environments that cause symptoms.

Allergic or Atopic Asthma

Allergic asthma, also referred to as atopic asthma, is caused by exposure to allergens such as pollen, mold, pet dander, and so on. These allergy triggers—pollen, for example—may not be present at all times, so asthmatic symptoms vary depending on the season and the environment.

Allergic asthma activates the body’s immune system, which protects the body from harmful foreign substances and microbes. When the body comes into contact with a foreign substance, it releases antibodies to react with or destroy the substance. However, sometimes the antibody release involves the overproduction of an antibody called immunoglobulin E, causing a release of chemical mediators such as leukotriene, prostaglandin, and histamine, which can result in the contractions of airway muscles that characterize an asthma attack.

Nonallergic Asthma

Nonallergic asthma is triggered by nonallergenic substances such as wood smoke, grain dust, tobacco smoke, fresh paint, cleaners, perfumes, and so on. Symptoms are similar to those of allergic asthma. Repeated exposure to these nonallergenic substances causes the release of chemical mediators (described above) that can cause airway constriction.

Occupational Asthma

Occupational asthma, the type of asthma most commonly associated with agriculture, is typically caused by exposure to a substance in the workplace that enters the lungs and activates the immune defense mechanism. The management of occupational asthma symptoms is impacted by exposure to allergens. Agricultural workers on farms and at grain elevators and food processing plants are at an increased risk of occupational asthma.

Examples of Causes or Aggravators of Occupational Asthma

Agricultural producers are exposed to a wide variety of allergens than can cause asthma or aggravate existing asthma. Additional risk factors for the development of asthma include genetics, gender, allergies, and environmental factors (such as tobacco smoke, mold, and so on).

Some of the triggering agents associated with asthma in agriculture include the following:

  • Grain dust: Grain dust is commonly found in barns, flour mills, and grain-storage facilities. Asthma resulting from grain dust occurs when a person is sensitized to the grain dust or a dust component.
  • Bacteria and fungi: Airborne bacteria and fungi (mushroom spores, mold, and so on) residing in agricultural structures can get into the lungs of an agricultural producer. Some of the cellular components of these bacterial and fungal microorganisms can cause an immune response that can result in an asthma attack.
  • Insects: Mites can be found in most homes and agricultural settings. These extremely small insects feed off organic material and may trigger asthma attacks for some people. Storage mites can be found in storage areas of organic products; dust mites are located wherever there is dust; and red spider mites are located in certain greenhouse crops. Cockroaches and their droppings can also trigger asthma attacks in some people, so it is necessary to clean areas attractive to cockroaches at least every two to three days.
  • Pesticides: Some of the pesticides used to get rid of pests have been associated with agricultural asthma.
  • Animal products: Potential allergens from animals include substances that contain proteins, such as dander, saliva, urine, and feces. The breakdown of urea and ammonium excretions can cause a release of ammonia in the environment that can be a respiratory irritant. Feathers and wool can also trigger asthmatic reactions.
  • Pollen
  • Tobacco leaves
  • Chemicals: Chemical irritants include polyvinyl chloride vapor and amprolium hydrochloride.
  • Wood smoke: Burning wood releases a mixture of harmful gases that can cause asthma attacks.

Other Types of Asthma

Other types of asthma include the following:

  • Viral-induced asthma: Viral respiratory infections, such as the common cold, can trigger an asthma attack.
  • Nocturnal asthma: Nocturnal asthma refers to asthma that worsens during the night—typically between two and four o’clock in the morning—either due to sinus infection or from the presence of an allergen such as dust mites or pet dander. Often gastrointestinal reflux (heartburn) is worse at night and may trigger an attack.
  • Reactive Airways Dysfunction Syndrome (RADS): RADS occurs after exposure to high concentrations of airborne irritants, such as chlorine. Asthmatic symptoms develop within 24 hours and may continue for several months or longer. Symptoms may recur with further exposure to high concentrations of the irritant.

Exercise and air temperature (especially cold air) can also trigger a person’s allergic or nonallergic asthma.

Reducing Your Risk of an Asthma Attack

Anyone with symptoms of asthma should have a primary medical care provider. Those with persistent symptoms may need to use a daily controller medicine, usually one that is inhaled, to reduce the chance of a flare-up. In addition, people with asthma should also always have a rescue inhaler available for acute symptoms.

The following actions can reduce allergens on your farm or ranch and limit your exposure to allergens:

  • Store grain at recommended moisture-content levels to reduce mold growth.
  • Properly ventilate animal-housing areas to reduce the accumulation of ammonia and other gases.
  • Frequently remove animal waste to reduce the buildup of ammonia and decrease your exposure to urine and fecal allergens.
  • Identify dust hazards at your farm or ranch and reduce exposure by cleaning these areas. Limit your time in dusty areas.
  • When cleaning a barn or stable, wet down areas to avoid dust from becoming airborne.
  • If you are a farm manager, provide appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for your employees.
  • Wash your work clothes in hot water at least once per week.
  • To protect against dust, bacteria, fungi, insects, and animal products when cleaning, spraying, harvesting, handling grain, or working in an animal-confinement building, wear an N-95 or N-100 disposable particulate respirator that is properly fitted and approved by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Double Strap Respirator

Double Strap Respirator

(Particulate Respirator. Source: Pennsylvania State University. Agricultural Safety and Health)

Resources

  • For more information about respiratory illnesses associated with agriculture, click here to link to the article “Respiratory Illnesses Associated with Agriculture.”
  • For more information about the hazards of grain dust, click here to link to the article “Grain Dust Explosions.”
  • For more information about PPE and respiratory protection, click here to link to the article “Respiratory Protection on the Farm and Ranch.”

 

Use the following format to cite this article:

Asthma and agriculture. (2012). Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/66326/asthma-and-agriculture.

 

Sources

Asthma. (2005) Candian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Retrieved from http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/diseases/asthma.html.

Asthma. (2012). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/asthma/faqs.htm.

Schenker, M.B.(2005) Farming and asthma. Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Retrieved from http://oem.bmj.com/content/62/4/211.1.full.

 

Reviewed and Summarized by:
Linda M. Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University – lmf8@psu.edu
Tom Irons, MD, East Carolina University  ironst@ecu.edu
David Lipton, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services  david.lipton@dhhs.nc.gov
Rick Langley, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services  rick.langley@dhhs.nc.gov
Dennis J. Murphy, Pennsylvania State University (Has since retired)
Aaron M. Yoder, University of Nebraska Medical Center – aaron.yoder@unmc.edu

 

 

Respiratory Illnesses Associated with Agriculture


Sunset and wind mills

Photo provided by the Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (CS-CASH)

 

Use the following format to cite this article:

Respiratory illnesses associated with agriculture. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/63439/respiratory-illnesses-associated-with-agriculture.

 

A farmer’s or rancher’s life is not always associated with the great outdoors and fresh air. In production agriculture, farmers and ranchers can be exposed to toxic gases and contaminated particulate matter that can cause short- and long-term health problems. The three main respiratory illnesses associated with production agriculture are:

  • farmer’s lung,
  • silo filler’s disease, and
  • organic dust toxicity syndrome. 

Farmer’s Lung

Farmer’s lung, or farmer’s hypersensitivity pneumonitis (FHP), is a noninfectious allergic disease that affects normal lung function. It results from the inhalation of mold spores from moldy hay, straw, or grain. The mold spores that cause farmer’s lung are microorganisms that grow in baled hay, stored grain, or silage with high moisture content (30%). Exposure to mold spores is greater in late winter and early spring.

Mold spores, which are not always visible, are so tiny that 250,000 spores can fit on the head of a pin. Because the spores are so small, it is easy for a farmer or rancher to breathe in millions of spores in a few minutes. Due to their size, the mold spores easily move into and settle in the lower part of the lungs.

Symptoms usually begin four to six hours after exposure to mold spores and can include increased coughing, coughs that bring up mucus, fever, chills, shortness of breath, discomfort in the lungs, and a tightness and/or pain in the chest. Symptoms may become most severe from 12 to 48 hours after exposure.

Allergic reaction to mold spores can be acute or chronic. An acute attack typically resembles the flu or pneumonia. Chronic reactions can resemble a nagging chest cold. A producer who has been diagnosed with farmer’s lung should avoid additional exposure to mold spores; otherwise, the producer’s condition could worsen and render him or her inactive. In some cases, farmer’s lung can be fatal.

If you think that you may have farmer’s lung, contact your physician and explain your symptoms and occupation. If your physician is not familiar with farmer’s lung, you may need to request a referral to a specialist for testing, diagnosis, and treatment.

To reduce the risk of contracting farmer’s lung, take the following steps:

  • Identify and minimize contaminants in your work environment.
  • Avoid exposure to contaminants and mold spores.
  • Limit the growth of mold spores by using mold inhibitors.
  • Harvest, bale, store, and ensile grains at the recommended moisture level to reduce mold growth.
  • Convert from a manual to a mechanical or automated feeding or feed-handling system to reduce the release of airborne mold spores.
  • Move work outside and avoid dusty work in confined areas whenever possible.
  • Mechanically remove air contaminants through ventilation with fans, exhaust blowers, and so on.
  • Wear appropriate respirators, dust masks, or other personal protective equipment (PPE). Click here to learn more about respiratory PPE.

Silo Filler’s Disease

Silo filler’s disease results from inhaling nitrogen dioxide, a silo gas produced during the silage fermentation process. Although a producer who has been exposed to silo gases may not experience symptoms, damage to the lungs may still have occurred. Fluid can build up in a person’s lungs 12 hours after exposure to nitrogen dioxide. Cough, hemoptysis (coughing up blood from the respiratory tract), dyspnea (shortness of breath), and chest pain can occur after an exposure to 20 ppm, a moderate level of nitrogen dioxide. This concentration has been designated by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) as immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH). Exposure to higher concentrations (greater than 100 ppm) can result in pulmonary edema (fluid accumulation in the lungs) and in swelling in the lungs, leading to long-term respiratory problems or death. Lower concentrations of 15 to 20 ppm are considered dangerous and can cause respiratory impairment.

If you have been exposed to silo gases, even a small amount, seek immediate medical attention.

To reduce exposure to nitrogen dioxide in silo gases, refrain from entering a silo for ten days to three weeks after filling is complete. If entry is necessary after the three-week period, run the silo blower for a minimum of 30 minutes prior to and during entry, and use a portable gas monitor to continually monitor the gas and oxygen levels in the silo. Click here to learn more about silo gases and how to reduce the risk of exposure.

Organic Dust Toxicity Syndrome

Organic Dust Toxicity Syndrome (ODTS), also called grain fever, toxic alveolitis, or pulmonary mycotoxicosis, is caused by exposure to very large amounts of organic dust. Certain agricultural areas may have large amounts of organic dust: grain storage, hog barns, poultry barns, and cotton-processing areas.

The onset of ODTS can occur four to six hours after exposure, and symptoms can be similar to those of acute farmer’s lung and may include cough, fever, chills, fatigue, muscle pain, and loss of appetite. People who have experienced ODTS and who experience additional exposures to organic dust have an increased risk for respiratory problems and the potential for developing chronic bronchitis. Producers can become very sick from ODTS, but most people completely recover. Occurrences of ODTS are underreported because symptoms often resemble the flu or other mild illnesses.  

You can reduce your risk of contracting ODTS by using a respirator to decrease exposure to organic dust. Click here to learn about the different types of respirators used in production agriculture. Implement best management practices to maintain good air quality in confinement buildings for swine and poultry.

 

Use the following format to cite this article:

 

Respiratory illnesses associated with agriculture. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/63439/respiratory-illnesses-associated-with-agriculture.

 

Sources

Atia, A. (2004) Agri-Facts: Silo gas (NO2) safety. Alberta Agriculture, Food, and Rural Development. Retrieved from http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex9036/$file/726-1.pdf?OpenElement.

Cyr, D. and Johnson, S. (2002) Upright silo safety. University of Maine Extension. Retrieved from http://umaine.edu/publications/2305e/.

Farmer’s lung. (2008) Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Retrieved from http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/diseases/farmers_lung.html.

Grisso, R., Gay, S., Hetzel, G., and Stone, B. (2009) Farmer’s lung: Causes and symptoms of mold- and dust-induced respiratory illness. Virginia Cooperative Extension. Retrieved from http://www.pubs.ext.vt.edu/442/442-602/442-602.html.                                             

Kirkhorn, S. and Garry V. (2000) Agricultural lung diseases. Environmental Health Perspectives. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1637683/.

Murphy, D. (2013) Farm respiratory hazards. Pennsylvania State University Cooperative Extension. Retrieved from https://extension.psu.edu/farm-respiratory-hazards.

Von Essen, S., Andersen, C., and Smith, L. Organic dust toxic syndrome: A noninfectious febrile illness after exposure to the hog barn environment. Journal of Swine Herd Health and Production. 2005; 13(5): 273-276. Retrieved from http://www.aasv.org/shap/issues/v13n5/v13n5p273.pdf.

 

Reviewed and summarized by:
Linda M. Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University – lmf8@psu.edu
Karen Funkenbusch, University of Missouri  funkenbuschk@missouri.edu
Dennis J. Murphy, Pennsylvania State University (Has since retired)
Robin Tutor-Marcom, North Carolina Agromedicine Institute  tutorr@ecu.edu
Aaron M. Yoder, University of Nebraska Medical Center – aaron.yoder@unmc.edu

Respiratory Protection on the Farm and Ranch


Use the following format to cite this article:

Respiratory protection for the farm and ranch. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/63440/respiratory-protection-on-the-farm-and-ranch.

 

Farmers and ranchers often work in areas where air quality can be less than ideal. Agricultural producers working in such conditions should wear personal protective equipment (PPE) to decrease their risk of contracting a respiratory impairment. (Click HERE to learn more about respiratory illnesses related to production agriculture.) Individuals who should use respiratory protection are those working around: 

  • dust,
  • mold spores,
  • silage,
  • fish meal,
  • agricultural chemicals,
  • solvents, and
  • toxic gases in confined animal housing.

Respiratory hazards fall into one of three categories:

  • Particulate contaminants: Dusts, mists, and fumes contaminate the air with particles that can be inhaled.
  • Gases and vapors: Gases are chemicals that are gaseous at room temperature, such as those found in silos and manure pits. Vapors are released from liquid applications, such as  pesticides and adhesives.
  • Oxygen-deficient atmosphere: Oxygen levels can be almost as low as 5% in such areas as sealed silos, manure storage facilities, and controlled atmospheric storage for fruits and vegetables.

Your respiratory protective equipment must be properly fitted for you, designed for the job that you need to complete, and specific to your work environment. A single type of respiratory protection does not fit all work situations, so it is critical to identify the appropriate type of respiratory protective equipment for each situation.

Nuisance Dust Mask

Single Strap Respirator

Single Strap Respirator

(Source: Pennsylvania State University. Agricultural Safety and Health)

A nuisance dust mask is constructed of extremely light filter paper. A single thin elastic circles your head to secure the mask. This type of mask provides protection against large dust particles, but provides little to no protection against smaller airborne particles. Wear this type of mask only if you have had no prior respiratory impairment and are completing a short-term task involving nontoxic dust, such as sweeping the floor of a garage or shop. A nuisance dust mask is not a respirator.

Respirators

A respirator is a device that protects the respiratory tract. There are two types of respirators: air-purifying respirators and supplied-air respirators.

Air-Purifying Respirators

Air-purifying respirators are useful when working around moldy hay in areas such as barn lofts and during pesticide applications. This type of respirator is also called a “negative-pressure respirator” because the wearer uses his or her own breath to move air through the respirator, inhaling and pulling air through the filter. Producers who have any type of respiratory limitation, such as asthma or cardiovascular problems, should check with their physicians prior to using air-purifying respirators.

The following descriptions will help you determine the type of air-purifying respirator needed for your work.

Disposable Particulate Respirator

Double Strap Respirator

Double Strap Respirator

(Source: Pennsylvania State University. Agricultural Safety and Health)

The disposable particulate respirator is commonly referred to as a dust mask, but it should not be confused with a nuisance dust mask. Main uses for the disposable particulate respirator include protection from dusts, mists, and some fumes in jobs such as haying, applying fertilizer, and grinding feed.

The unit is a molded mask that covers the user’s nose and mouth, held in place by two elastic straps. The filter is made of fibrous material that traps particles as you inhale. This type of respirator can be disposable or reusable, but should be disposed of when saturated with a liquid. Replace the filter of a disposable mask when: 

  • breathing becomes difficult. 
  • the mask loses its shape. 
  • the mask does not seal to your face.
  • you can taste or smell a substance known to be in the air.

All particulate respirators approved under the most recent testing requirements have a certification label displaying emblems from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

Chemical Cartridge Respirators

Full Mask Chemical Cartridge Respirator

Full Mask Chemical Cartridge Respirator

(Source: Pennsylvania State University. Agricultural Safety and Health)

Chemical cartridge respirators use an absorbent material, such as activated charcoal, to absorb contaminants and filter out low concentrations of toxic gases and vapors. A chemical cartridge respirator consists of a soft, silicone facepiece that covers the nose and mouth and a valve to regulate air movement through the filter. This type of respirator is appropriate for areas that have vapors and dust because these respirators can be equipped with the necessary filters. Half-mask models can be disposable or reusable. Because a full-face mask provides eye and face protection, it offers greater protection against contaminants.

Typically, the filtering cartridge screws into the front of the mask. You can select and insert the correct cartridge for the type of gas or vapor contaminant in your work area. Cartridges are color-coded according to the type of gas or vapor contaminant they filter. Black, for example, indicates a cartridge that filters organic vapors; green, a cartridge that filters ammonia.

Replace cartridges after eight hours of use, when you begin to smell or taste the contaminant (a situation called “breakthrough”), or when dizziness or irritation occurs. Do not use a chemical cartridge respirator in areas that may contain gases designated as immediately dangerous to life or health (IDLH).

Gas Masks

A gas mask is also called a chemical canister respirator. The canister holds more chemical absorbent than a chemical cartridge, and gas masks can be used in areas where gases are extremely toxic and/or highly concentrated. The canister can be mounted on a person’s belt, worn on the back or chest, or screwed onto the mask at the chin and connected to the facepiece via an air hose.

Replace the canister of a gas mask after eight hours of use or when breakthrough occurs. This unit is a full-face piece and should not be worn in areas considered IDLH.

Powered Air-Purifying Respirators (PAPRs)

PAPR

(Source: Pennsylvania State University. Agricultural Safety and Health)

Unlike a negative-pressure respirator that requires breathing to move air through a respirator, a PAPR is equipped with a motorized blower that forces air through the filtering device. For this reason, PAPRs are also called “positive-pressure respirators.” This type of respirator is recommended for individuals who have respiratory impairments or cardiovascular conditions.

Most PAPRs have a hard helmet and rigid visor, although half-masks and full-face models with nonrigid helmets are also available. A PAPR with a full-face mask or closable hood provides the greatest protection against contaminants. Depending on the filter that you are using, the PAPR can be used to provide protection against dusts, mists, gases, and vapors. With a constant flow of air, the unit is cooler for the user. The power source for a PAPR is either D batteries (disposable or rechargeable) or a 12V or 24V DC adaptor that can be powered from a vehicle battery.

This unit should not be worn in areas considered IDLH.

Supplied-Air Respirators

Supplied Air Respirator

(Source: Pennsylvania State University. Agricultural Safety and Health)

A supplied-air respirator provides the user with fresh, clean air from an outside source. The two types of supplied-air respirators are air-line respirators and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). An air-line respirator provides clean air via a hose (up to 300 ft.) that is connected to a stationary air pump or tank located in a clean-air area. The SCBA has a portable air tank that is carried on the back, similar to the unit carried by a scuba diver or firefighter. 

Supplied-air respirators are very expensive and require proper fit and maintenance to operate correctly. In addition, a user should receive instructions for using this type of respirator and should practice its use.

A supplied-air respirator is the only respirator that should be worn in an area considered IDLH, such as a manure pit or sealed silo. Using a supplied-air respirator is the only safe way to enter an area considered IDLH because of potentially dangerous gas levels and lack of oxygen. As an agricultural producer, you risk your life by entering an oxygen-deficient atmosphere without a supplied-air respirator.

Filtering Efficiency

A respirator is rated according to its efficiency in reducing the user’s exposure to dust, mists, and fumes and its time-use limits against oil-based chemicals or pesticides in the air. The filter efficiency is represented by a letter—N, P, or R—followed by a percentage. The letter indicates whether the respirator is resistant to oil and for how long. The percentage indicates the filter efficiency, or the percentage of airborne contaminants the filter removes. Typical efficiencies are 95%, 99%, or 99.97%, with higher percentages having greater efficiencies. 

  • N-series respirators are not resistant to airborne oils and can plug quickly.
  • R-series respirators are resistant to airborne oils for up to eight hours.
  • P-series respirators are oilproof and, depending on the given respirator, may be resistant to airborne particles for up to eight hours. P-series filters should be changed every 40 hours or 30 days, whichever comes first.

These ratings appear on respiratory units, prefilters, cartridges, packaging, and advertisements. Some common filter efficiency labeling is shown below:

  • N95 – Particulate Filter: 95% filter efficiency against particulate aerosols free of oil
  • R99 – Particulate Filter: 99% filter efficiency against all particulate aerosols
  • P100 – Particulate Filter: 99.97% filter efficiency against all particulate aerosols

Purchasing and Maintaining Your Respirator

After you have determined the type of respirator that you need for your farm or ranch, locate suppliers in your area. Visit your local farm store, agricultural chemical dealer, or industrial safety equipment distributor to try on different brands and styles in order to select the respirator that fits your needs. If possible, have a trained person teach you how to perform a “fit test” to make sure that you have the best seal with your face.

Check the facial fit of your respirator each time that you use it to ensure that you are getting the maximum protection. Glasses, gum or tobacco chewing, and facial hair can negatively affect the seal of your respirator. If you experience a break in the seal, smell or taste a contaminant, or experience dizziness or irritation while you are wearing the respirator, leave the contaminated area immediately and enter an area with fresh air.

Never wear contact lenses when wearing your respirator because of the potential for exposure to contaminants that can stick to the lenses or damage your eyes. Adaptors for prescription eyewear are available that fit inside the facepiece of full-face respirators.

Maintain your respirator by cleaning it frequently with warm, soapy water. Be sure to remove all cartridges and filters before immersing the respirator in water. Thoroughly dry the unit and store it in a sealed plastic bag to prevent cartridges from absorbing vapors and filters from collecting dust.

Inspect your respirator regularly for damage to the facepiece or head straps, dirt around the facepiece, missing valve covers, and loss of elasticity in the head straps. Replace only those parts, such as filters and head straps, that are designed to be replaced. Contact the manufacturer or dealer concerning major part replacement and repairs.

Resources

View the video below concerning respiratory protection on the farm or ranch.

 

Use the following format to cite this article:

 

Respiratory protection for the farm and ranch. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/63440/respiratory-protection-on-the-farm-and-ranch.

Sources

General respiratory protection guidance for employers and workers. (n.d.). OSHA Bulletin. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Retrieved from https://www.osha.gov/dts/shib/respiratory_protection_bulletin_2011.html. .

Grisso, R., Gay, S. W., Hetzel, G., and Stone, B. (2009) Respiratory protection in agriculture. Virginia Cooperative Extension. Retrieved from http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/442/442-601/442-601_pdf.pdf.

Jester, R. & Malone, G. (2004) Respiratory health on the poultry farm. University of Delaware Cooperative Extension. Retrieved from http://nasdonline.org/197/d000146/respiratory-health-on-the-poultry-farm….

Metzler, R. and Szalajda, J. (2011) NIOSH approval labels – key information to protect yourself. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2011-179/pdfs/2011-179.pdf.

Murphy, D. J., Harshman, W. C., and LaCross, C. M. (2006) Farm respiratory protection. Pennsylvania State University Cooperative Extension. Retrieved from https://extension.psu.edu/farm-respiratory-protection.

New classifications help match protection to hazard. (n.d.) Electronic Library of Construction Occupational Safety and Health. Retrieved from http://www.elcosh.org/en/document/94/d000102/respirators.html.

 

Reviewed and Summarized by:
Linda M. Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University – lmf8@psu.edu
LaMar J. Grafft, University of Iowa  lamar-grafft@uiowa.edu
Dennis J. Murphy, Pennsylvania State University (Has since retired)
J. Samuel Steel, Pennsylvania State University (Has since retired)
Aaron M. Yoder, University of Nebraska Medical Center – aaron.yoder@unmc.edu

Back Injuries and Production Agriculture


Use the following format to cite this article:

Back injuries and production agriculture. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/63143/back-injuries-and-production-agricu….

 

Farmers and ranchers are vulnerable to developing back injuries because of risk factors in the workplace such as awkward postures, whole-body vibration, repetitive motions, and forceful exertions, including heaving lifting. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), back injuries are one of the leading causes of disability in the workplace and cause human suffering and loss of productivity and strain the compensation system.

The spine is composed of vertebrae, bony blocks stacked on top of each other to support the trunk and head, allow flexibility, and protect the spinal cord. Discs act as cushions between vertebrae and have strong outer shells and jelly-like middles. The muscles located on the back, abdomen, and buttocks provide stability and help maintain proper posture.

A back injury can develop gradually from a repetitive activity or suddenly from a single traumatic event, such as improperly lifting a load or lifting a load that is too heavy. Back impairments can range from mild and temporary to incapacitating and permanent. Many acute back injuries occur when doing activities, such as the following, that exceed the capacity of muscles, tendons, or discs:

  • Reaching while lifting or lifting with bad posture
  • Engaging in unaccustomed work
  • Engaging in repetitive lifting with inadequate rest
  • Bending or twisting while lifting
  • Lifting objects that are too heavy
  • Lifting with improper foot placement

Prolonged driving of vehicles that cause whole-body vibration, such as tractors or trucks, can be a risk factor for developing a back impairment. Whole-body vibration can aggravate existing back injuries and increase pain levels.

Typical treatment  for a back injury can include physical therapy and medication, but more complex treatments may be necessary for a debilitating back impairment. Therapy usually involves stretching exercises, walking, and normal activity, provided that activity is not excessively strenuous. Consult a health care professional for specific treatment recommendations.

Strategies to Prevent Back Injuries

A back impairment can happen in any type of home, work, or recreational environment. Basic injury-prevention strategies include staying healthy and fit, maintaining good posture, and getting regular exercise. According to WorkSafeBC, using the following strategies when bending, lifting, and carrying objects can help reduce the risk of a back impairment:

  • Place your feet apart to improve your balance and center your body weight.
  • Maintain a good grip on the object and use appropriate gloves when needed. 
  • Keep a straight back when possible and avoid awkward postures.
  • Hold the object as close to your body as possible.
  • Use smooth, slow motions to lift and carry a load.
  • Never twist your back or waist, but rather pivot with your feet if you need to turn.
  • When you have the option, push rather than pull a load.
  • Prior to lifting, make sure that there are no obstructions in your intended path.
  • Get help with heavy, awkward loads.

Responding to Back Injuries

If you are the manager at a farm or ranch and there is a pattern of back injuries related to a specific task, you should examine the task and complete a job safety analysis (JSA) to identify hazards associated with the task and develop controls to reduce the risk of injury for workers. 

Additional Recommendations

  • When possible, rely on machinery or equipment such as pushcarts, hand trucks, wheelbarrows, or hoists to move objects. 
  • If you are taking medication for a back injury, check prescriptions and any over-the-counter medications to ensure that medication will not impact your ability to safely operate equipment.
  • Work with a partner to lift objects that are heavy or bulky. Team lifting should be done by two people of similar size who can communicate and work together.
  • Rotate employees between lifting and nonlifting tasks.

For a demonstration of proper lifting techniques, watch the following video:

Resource

Click here to view back stretching and strengthening exercises recommended by the Mayo Clinic.

Use the following format to cite this article:

Back injuries and production agriculture. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/63143/back-injuries-and-production-agricu….

Sources

Back disorders and injuries. (n.d.) OSHA Technical Manual. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Retrieved from https://www.osha.gov/dts/osta/otm/otm_vii/otm_vii_1.html.

Back talk: An owner’s manual for backs. (2010) Workers Compensation Board of British Columbia. Retrieved from http://www.okneurospine.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/backTalk.pdf.

Sesto, M. (2002) Chronic musculoskeletal disorders in agriculture for partners in agricultural health. University of Wisconsin–Madison: Department of Industrial Engineering. Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/0e39/28668ec0d7aa2d4b8d26463e8e1107966a….

Whole-body vibration in agriculture. (2009) Health and Safety Executive. Retrieved from http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/ais20.pdf.

 
Reviewed and Summarized by:
Linda M. Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University – lmf8@psu.edu
Andrew Merryweather, University of Utah – a.merryweather@utah.edu
Dennis J. Murphy, Pennsylvania State University (Has since retired)
Robert Stuthridge, Purdue University – rstuthri@purdue.edu
Aaron M. Yoder, University of Nebraska Medical Center – aaron.yoder@unmc.edu

Sun Exposure and Agriculture

 
Sun Photo
(Photo Source: Pennsylvania State University Ag Safety & Health)
 

 

Use the following format to cite this article:

Sun exposure and agriculture. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/63042/sun-exposure-and-agriculture.

 

Farmers and ranchers need to be cautious about their exposure to the ultraviolet rays (UV) of the sun. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States and is related to repeated exposure to the sun which causes damaging changes to a person’s skin. The two types of ultraviolet rays most likely to damage a person’s skin and increase the risk for developing skin cancer are Ultraviolet A (UVA) and Ultraviolet B (UVB).

No one is immune to the sun’s UV rays; however, some skin types are more susceptible than others. People with blonde or red hair, fair skin, or freckles tend to get sunburned more quickly than others and should be even more vigilant about protecting themselves from the sun.

Skin damage builds up over the years, and once the damage has occurred, it cannot be reversed.

 

Risks of Sun Exposure

One of the main health concerns of sun exposure is skin cancer. In the United States, one in five people will develop skin cancer. Contact your physician if you notice a difference in your skin or changes in moles regarding asymmetry, border, irregularities, color, or size.

The three main types of skin cancer are basal, squamous, and melanoma. Basal and squamous cancers are typically associated with long-term exposure to the sun but are seldom fatal. Melanoma can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated early and can affect people of all ages. When examining your skin for melanoma, look for changes in the size, shape, and color of existing moles and discolored patches of skin that may start small and grow.   

 

Recommendations

The following recommendations can reduce an agricultural producer’s risk of sun exposure, skin cancer, and other sun-induced conditions:

Sun Intensity – Exposure to harmful ultraviolet rays is most intense between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. When possible, avoid working in direct sunlight during this time. If you must be in the sun during these hours, take shade breaks to reduce exposure, drink plenty of water, and reapply sunscreen at least every two hours.

Sunscreen – Sunscreens have one or more chemicals that absorb or disperse ultraviolet rays. Sun protection factor (SPF) is a numerical rating that indicates a specific amount of protection. You should wear a sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15, but those with fair skin should use an SPF of 30 or higher. Due to exposure to water, weather, and perspiration, you should reapply sunscreen at least every two hours. 

Clothing – Long-sleeved shirts and long pants provide protection from the sun’s rays. Darker clothing with a tight weave provides more protection from the sun than light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Special SPF or UV-resistant clothing is available to reduce exposing your skin to the UV rays.

Hats – When it comes to sun protection, not all hats are created equal. You should wear a wide-brimmed (minimum of three inches wide) hat with flaps or drapes to provide sun protection for your eyes, ears, and neck.  

Wide Brimmed Hat

Wide Brimmed Hat. Photo Souce: Penn State University

Sunglasses – To reduce the risk of eye damage from the sun, wear sunglasses with UV protection. When purchasing UV-blocking sunglasses, look for labels that indicate “UV absorption” or “meets ANSI UV requirements.” Long-term exposure of your eyes to the sun could cause pterygium (thickening of the outer coating of the eye), cataracts, and possibly macular degeneration.

Medications – Check both your prescription and over-the-counter medications concerning whether the medication creates sensitivity to sunlight, and discuss options with your physician.

Diseases – Sun exposure can be problematic for people with certain types of diseases or health conditions.  Discuss your medical condition and sun exposure with your physician.

 

Use the following format to cite this article:

Sun exposure and agriculture. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/63042/sun-exposure-and-agriculture.

 

Citations

 

Jepsen, S. D. & Suchey, J. (2015) Sun exposure (Protect your skin). Ohio State University Extension. Retrieved from http://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/aex-79018.

Schwab, C. & Stone, J. (2002) Remember sun safety in the field. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Retrieved from https://store.extension.iastate.edu/ItemDetail.aspx?ProductID=4993.

UV radiation. (2010). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/uvradiation/.  

 

Reviewed and Summarized by:
Linda M. Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University – lmf8@psu.edu
Karen Funkenbusch – University of Missouri – funkenbuschk@missouri.edu
Dennis J. Murphy, Pennsylvania State University (Has since retired)
Charles V. Schwab, Iowa State University – cvschwab@iastate.edu
Aaron M. Yoder, University of Nebraska Medical Center – aaron.yoder@unmc.edu
 

Heat-Related Illnesses and Agricultural Producers

 

Sunset photo

Sunset Photo

(Source: Penn State Ag Safety and Health)

 

Use the following format to cite this article:

Heat-related illnesses and agricultural producers. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/62261/heat-related-illnesses-and-agricultural-producers.

 

Farmers and ranchers perform job responsibilities in all types of weather conditions including excessive heat and humidity. It is important for agricultural producers to understand risks associated with working in high heat work environments, potential heat-related illnesses, precautionary steps, and appropriate medical responses.

Understanding the Body’s Response to Heat

Our body’s primary defense against heat is through sweating. Sweating allows moisture to collect on the skin and evaporate. Sweating happens when the surrounding environment becomes greater than skin temperature. When this occurs, an internal body system called the sympathetic nervous system releases a chemical called acetylcholine which turns on sweat glands in the skin in an area called the dermis. The sweat glands release moisture and move it to the outer surface of the skin for cooling. However, in hot, humid weather, the moisture does not always evaporate and can collect on the skin causing the body to warm up and the heart to pump more blood to the skin. When this happens, the body starts to sweat excessively and depletes the body of water and electrolytes, which can lead to a heat-related illness. 

The range for normal body temperature is between 96° to 100°F. Hard exercise, strenuous work, or fever will usually put the body in a range between 101° to 105°F. At 105° to 107°F, cooling treatment or fever therapy may be needed, and at even higher body temperatures, heat exhaustion and heat stroke usually occur. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke indicate a serious impairment to the body’s cooling system and is a definite signal for medical assistance. Heat stroke or body temperatures beyond 110°F may result in death.

Risk Factors for Heat-Related Illnesses

Everyone is at risk for heat-related illness if they do not follow standard precautionary measures. The following factor(s) can increase the chance for developing one of the five main heat-related illnesses:

  • Being elderly or an infant.
  • Having certain medical conditions such as circulatory problems, heart conditions, or pregnancy.
  • Being physically unfit or overweight.
  • Consuming alcohol and/or drugs (including prescription medication; for example. the medication atropine interferes with the ability to sweat).
  • Having lower heat tolerance levels or not becoming acclimated to working in high heat and humidity.
  • High temperatures and humidity levels in the environment (as well as sun radiation or heat-conducting surfaces like black asphalt).
  • Not having adequate fluid intake levels needed to hydrate the body.
  • Limited air flow or breeze to aid in the cooling process.

Breakdown of Common Heat-Related Illnesses

There are five heat-related illnesses: heat rash, syncope, cramps, exhaustion, and stroke. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are typically the most severe and require immediate medical attention. Figure 1 outlines each illness, typical symptoms, and treatment.

Fig. 1: Breakdown of Heat-Related Illnesses
Heat-Related Illnesses Cause Symptoms Treatment
Heat rash Excessive sweating during humid weather Red, blotchy skin rash; clusters of pimples or small blisters Keep the affected area dry, and treat with cornstarch or powder.  Work in a cooler, less humid work environment.
Heat syncope Prolonged standing or rising suddenly from a sitting or lying position Light-headedness, dizziness, or fainting Move person to a cool place to lie down, elevate the feet, and give liquids to drink. 
Heat cramps Loss of body salts and fluids from sweating during strenuous activity Pain in stomach, arms, and/or legs Stop activity, drink clear or sports beverage. Massage affected muscles. 
Heat exhaustion Excessive loss of body salts and water from sweating  Cool, pale skin, dizziness, headache, cramps, nausea, sweating, weakness, confusion, high body temperature, and unconsciousness Have the person drink plenty of cool fluids, remove excess clothing, and apply cool compresses. Call for medical attention.  
Heat stroke System that regulates body temperature fails and the body temperature rises to critical levels High temperature, hot dry skin, slurred speech, confusion, loss of consciousness, and seizures Immediately call for medical assistance. Move the person to a cool place, and slightly elevate the head and shoulders. Remove outer clothing, and cool the body with water, wet towels, or sheets. 

Recommendations to Avoid Heat-Related Problems

  • Do not wait until you are thirsty – drink approximately 8 oz. (1 cup) of water every 15 to 30 minutes.
  • Take a 15-minute break in a shaded area every two hours.
  • Monitor the weather, and schedule strenuous work activities accordingly to reduce exposure to high heat situations.
  • Wear light-colored, lightweight, and loose-fitting clothing.
  • Avoid the use of alcohol, drugs, caffeine, and large amounts of sugar when exposed to heat because they can increase your rate of dehydration.
  • Check your prescriptions and over-the-counter medications to determine if there are any side effects when you are exposed to heat.
  • Appropriately wear specialized protective gear such as cooling vests to reduce your risk of a heat illness;  if used inappropriately, heat illness can actually increase.
  • Learn about prevention of heat illness and teach your workers about health and safety instructions related to working in hot weather and appropriate responses to heat-related illnesses.
  • Gradually build up a tolerance to working in the heat. If a person has a severely low tolerance to heat, that person may need to perform tasks that limit exposure to the heat.
  • Certain types of personal protective equipment (PPE) can increase the risk of heat stress, such as protective suiting. Schedule jobs that require PPE during cooler times of the day.
  • Recognize the conditions that can affect body heat such as fever, physically strenuous work, and even time of day (for example, body temperature is higher in late afternoons).
  • Talk to your physician if you have a chronic health condition or disability (e.g., spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis) before working in the heat.

View the U.S. Agricultural Safety and Health Centers video below to learn about the risk of heat-related illnesses for outdoor workers.

 

Additional Resources:

Beat the Heat by Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health (UMASH)

Heat Illness and Agriculture by Penn State Extension

Heat Illness Prevention: Training Materials for Educators by Pacific Northwest Ag Safety and Health (PNASH)

 

Use the following format to cite this article:

Heat-related illnesses and agricultural producers. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/62261/heat-related-illnesses-and-agricultural-producers.

 

Sources

 

Heat stress. (2011). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/heatstress/.

Jepsen, S.D., McGuire, K. & Poland, D. (2011) Secondary injury prevention: Heat stress. The Ohio State University. Retrieved from http://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/AEX-981.4-10.

Murphy, D. (n.d.). Heat illness and agriculture. Pennsylvania State University College of Agricultural Science Cooperative Extension. Retrieved from https://extension.psu.edu/heat-illness-and-agriculture.

Porth, C.M. (2010). Pathophysiology, 8th ed. Lippincott-Williams.

Protecting workers from the effects of heat. (2011). Occupational Safety and Health Administration Fact Sheet. Retrieved from http://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_Hurricane_Facts/heat_stress.pdf.

 

Reviewed and Summarized by:
Linda M. Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University – lmf8@psu.edu      
Karen Funkenbusch – University of Missouri – funkenbuschk@missouri.edu
Dennis J. Murphy, Pennsylvania State University (Has since retired)
Carla Wilhite, University of New Mexico – CWilhite@salud.unm.edu
Aaron M. Yoder, University of Nebraska Medical Center – aaron.yoder@unmc.edu