Saliency of Occupational Safety and Health in a Department of Agricultural Engineering

  • Piercy, Larry R.;
  • Cole, Henrey;
  • Zollicoffer, A.;
  • McKnight, Robert;
  • Ross, I. J.

During Spring 1994, a survey was conducted in a department of agricultural engineering to determine what occupational safety and health (OSH) topics were being taught in existing courses, the amount of time devoted to these topics, and what additional topics would be appropriate for the curriculum. The questionnaire also assessed the adequacy of current resources for teaching OSH and the perceived needs for incorporating topics. Separate questionnaires with comparable items were developed for faculty, technician, and graduate student groups. Forms were distributed to 17 faculty, 14 technicians, and 13 graduate students. The overall response rate was 86 percent.

The questionnaire consisted of 40 items arranged in 18 clusters, providing data about the professional characteristics of the groups and perceptions concerning OSH instruction and practices in the department. Notable similarities and discrepancies in the responses among faculty, technicians, and graduate students were observed.

Areas of special interests related to OSH varied widely when broken down by faculty and technician groups. Faculty responses primarily reflected safety issues that typically occur in production agriculture, e.g., grain storage safety and use of pesticides. Technicians listed areas involving potential injury agents to which they are exposed in laboratory and shop, such as machinery, electrical, and chemical hazards.

The groups differed in ratings of the reasons to include OSH instruction in the curriculum. Faculty rated liability considerations, regulatory compliance, and personal commitment highest. Technicians rated laboratory safety, personal commitment, and regulatory compliance the highest. Laboratory safety was rated highest by students.

Overall ratings for adequacy of available resources to teach OSH were low. Faculty and technicians gave particularly low ratings to instructional computer programs, funding, and resources for personal training activities.

Faculty reported higher levels of inclusion of OSH content in the curriculum than did either technicians or graduate students. This finding may be skewed because the majority of courses taught by the faculty were at the undergraduate level. Graduate students enrolled in the program, however, indicated both a lack of and a need for appropriate OSH instruction.

Surveys of this kind can serve to emphasize one component of a strategic plan to formalize OSH activities among faculty, technicians and students; to increase OSH training for departmental staff and students; and to capture additional resources necessary for such instruction. Efforts to replicate the survey with other agricultural engineering departments are under way.

This research abstract was extracted from a portion of the proceedings of "Agricultural Safety and Health: Detection, Prevention and Intervention," a conference presented by the Ohio State University and the Ohio Department of Health, sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control/National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

The authors noted above are from: All at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY

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