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

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

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

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

Anhydrous Ammonia Safety

Anhydrous Ammonia

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

Use the following format to cite this article:

Anhydrous ammonia safety. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/63196/anhydrous-ammonia-safety.

 

Anhydrous ammonia (NH3) is a nitrogen crop fertilizer that can cause severe chemical burns; frostbite to the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract; and death. It is important for all individuals working with this type of fertilizer to understand the potential risks, necessary safety precautions, and proper response in the event of accidental contact.

Anhydrous ammonia is a hygroscopic compound, meaning that it takes up water from the nearest source, which can include the human body—especially the eyes, lungs, and skin because of their high moisture content. Anhydrous ammonia is caustic, corrosive, and damaging to tissue high in moisture content when it contacts the human body. Anhydrous ammonia inhalation incidents are typically severe because the victim’s throat can swell shut, causing suffocation. When vapors or liquid come in contact with a person’s eyes, blindness may occur.

Typically, anhydrous ammonia is stored under pressure, but it vaporizes to a colorless gas. It has a unique odor that can be detected at a low concentration of 5 ppm. The concentration in fertilizer is approximately 1,000,000 ppm, but even brief exposure to a concentration of 2,500 to 6,500 ppm can result in death.

Anhydrous ammonia is transported under pressure as a liquid, so all equipment used for transport must be designed for use under high pressure to avoid ruptures or breaks. Incidents can occur when anhydrous ammonia escapes from transfer hoses or valves, equipment malfunctions and sprays anhydrous ammonia in multiple directions, hoses pull apart during transportation or application, and so on.

PPE and Supplies

It is essential that all workers who use anhydrous ammonia wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), be equipped with necessary response supplies, and know how to respond in an emergency. PPE should include ventless goggles or a full-face shield, rubber gloves with long cuffs that can be rolled to catch drips, and a long-sleeved shirt. Nonrubber gloves made of ammonia-proof material are acceptable. Because contact lenses can trap the gas and become fused to the eye, it is recommended that individuals not wear contact lenses while working with anhydrous ammonia.

In the event of an exposure emergency, the most important resource is an ample supply of clean water to begin flushing the eyes and skin. If you use a vehicle to transport anhydrous ammonia, you must carry a 5 gal. container of clean water. Each person working with anhydrous ammonia should carry a 6 to 8 fl. oz. squeeze bottle of water at all times for rapid response to an emergency.

Basic First Aid for Anhydrous Ammonia Exposure

The first-response treatment for anhydrous ammonia exposure is to flush the exposed area (skin, nose, throat, eyes, and so on) with clean water for a minimum of 15 minutes.

  • Flush the exposed area immediately to decrease injury caused by the anhydrous ammonia coming in contact with skin or clothes. Although clean water is the ideal resource for flushing exposed areas of the body, if you do not have water available, other nontoxic liquids, such as cold coffee or orange juice, can be used.
  • Remove contaminated clothing unless the clothing is frozen to the victim’s skin.
  • Seek medical attention immediately and inform medical staff of the exposure to anhydrous ammonia so that they will not treat the wounds with oils or ointments that can intensify the damage.

If you find a person who is in a continuous stream of anhydrous ammonia, contact your local emergency service responders or 911. Inform the emergency medical responders about the type of incident so they can bring the proper equipment to the scene. A self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and protective clothing are necessary to remove a person from a continuous stream. Rescue workers will contact a hazardous materials (HAZMAT) disposal team if HAZMAT services are needed at the scene.

Note that these guidelines are not comprehensive, and all individuals working with anhydrous ammonia should receive training in the proper response to exposure emergencies.

Storage and Transportation

Anhydrous ammonia is a strong alkali that, when dissolved in water, readily reacts with copper, zinc, brass, and other alloys. Therefore, the only types of containers, fittings, and piping that should come in contact with anhydrous ammonia should be nongalvanized steel or iron. Do not store other materials, such as propane or liquefied petroleum gas, in a tank that has been used to store anhydrous ammonia.

When filling your anhydrous ammonia tank, do not fill it more than 85% full, and always disconnect the fill hose before moving the tank. Remember to bleed pressurized anhydrous ammonia from the hose before connecting or disconnecting the hose.

When transporting anhydrous ammonia, be sure to adhere to the following precautions and safety rules:

  • Running Gear: Regularly inspect the wagon’s frame tongue, reach poles, anchor devices, wheel bearings, knuckles, ball joints, and pins for structural damage and wear and make necessary repairs and adjustments.
  • Tires: Check tires for proper inflation, bald spots, and signs of wear and ensure that lug nuts are tight.
  • Hoses and Valves: Inspect and replace hoses and valves as needed.

    • The hydrostatic relief valve should be replaced every five years.
    • The transfer hose should be replaced five years from the date of manufacture.
  • Lubrication: Annually lubricate the wagon’s knuckle, wheels, tongues, and so on.
  • Towing Vehicle: To increase the driver’s ability to control the towing vehicle, ensure that the towing vehicle weighs at least as much as the tank.

    • A tractor can tow two tanks, but a truck can tow only one tank at a time.
  • Speed Limit: When towing an anhydrous ammonia tank, observe a speed limit of 25 mph.
  • Hitch Pin: Use a hitch pin with a safety chain when towing a tank wagon.
  • Warning Lights: Ensure that the tank is equipped with a seven-terminal breakaway connector plug to properly operate turn signals, flashing warning lights, and a red brake light.
  • Safety Signage: If operating on a highway, outfit the tank with all required safety markings, including a slow-moving vehicle (SMV) sign. (Click here for more information about SMV signs and increasing the visibility of your agricultural equipment.)

    • The words Anhydrous Ammonia must appear on both sides of the tank and on the rear of the tank in letters 4 in. high. The words should be in contrast to the tank so that they can be read easily.
    • Inhalation Hazard must appear on both sides of the tank in letters 3 in. high.  
    • A Department of Transportation (DOT) placard number 1005 for nonflammable gas should be placed on the front, back, and sides of the tank.

 

Additional Safety Recommendations

  • Paint the tank with reflective white paint to decrease excessive pressure buildup that can occur when the tank is heated from direct sunlight.
  • Do not use dented or damaged tanks until they have been checked by an authorized inspector and necessary repairs are completed.
  • Allow only certified welders to perform welding on the tank. 
  • Regulations and codes regarding towing of anhydrous ammonia and signage may vary, so be familiar with and obey the regulations in your state.
 

 

Use the following format to cite this article:

 

Anhydrous ammonia safety. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/63196/anhydrous-ammonia-safety.

 

Sources

Schwab, C., Hanna, M., & Miller, L. (2008) Anhydrous ammonia safety: Play it safe with anhydrous ammonia. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Retrieved from https://store.extension.iastate.edu/ItemDetail.aspx?ProductID=4989.

Training module: Safe handling of anhydrous ammonia (NH3). (2002) Ohio State University Extension. Retrieved from http://nasdonline.org/1731/d001719/safe-handling-of-anhydrous-ammonia-nh….

Training module: Towing anhydrous ammonia tanks. (2002) Ohio State University Extension Agricultural Tailgate Safety Training. Retrieved from http://nasdonline.org/1794/d001750/towing-anhydrous-ammonia-tanks.html.

 

Reviewed and Summarized by:
LaMar Grafft, East Carolina University – grafftl@ecu.edu
Linda M. Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University – lmf8@psu.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