On-Site Agricultural Hazard Evaluations in Iowa

  • Probasco, James

The Iowa OSHA Consultation Division, under a grant from Federal OSHA Consultation, is performing hazard evaluations on family farms. This program has been ongoing during the summer months for the past two years. These on-site consultation visits identify recognized hazards utilizing 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 1928 (commercial agriculture standards) and other standards, including CFR 1910 (general industry), NEC, ANSI, etc. The participants in this voluntary program are exempt from mandatory correction of the hazards identified. The intent of the program is to allow the farmer to make informed decisions on taking corrective action and ultimately to reduce or eliminate observed hazards.

The prevalence of hazards on 98 farms during 1993 is as follows. A total of 1133 hazards were documented. Of these, 50% were electric related hazards, 27% machine guarding, 11% labeling of hazardous materials, and the remaining 12% being a diverse combination of hazards such as lack of slow-moving vehicle signs, fall hazards, confined spaces, noise, lack of personal protective equipment, field sanitation, and others. Unsafe drinking water (i.e., unacceptable levels of coliform bacteria and/or nitrates) was found in 48% of the 65 wells tested.

Follow-up data was obtained from 69 of the participating farms. Indications are that approximately 40% of the hazards observed are being corrected to some degree, while the remainder were either not corrected or confirmation of corrective action could not be made. Within a type of hazard, corrective action was taken in 54% of the unsafe drinking water situations. The next most corrected hazards were those involving electricity, with 52% being corrected. Machine guarding and hazardous materials labeling both had a 39% correction rate.

Hazards with an extremely high probability of causing injury or illness are apparently being addressed promptly by farmers. Conversely, those hazards with relatively low probability of occurrence are generally not being corrected.

Two major deciding factors in correction of hazards are the cost and difficulty of taking action. Easily corrected hazards are often addressed while more difficult and expensive measures are not. Other factors influencing corrective measures are inconvenience, the practical aspect of making changes to equipment, low probability that an incident will occur, and landowner/tenant relationships.

The degree of success of this program is directly measured in the number of hazards that are eliminated. A hazard correction rate of 40% in agricultural settings may not be high when compared to the correction rate in general industry, but given the fact that those surveyed are exempt from industry standards, that correction rate exceeds expectations.

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: At the Iowa Division of Labor, Des Moines, IA.

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