Using History and Accomplishments to Plan for the Future

  • Petrea, Robert (Chip)

This is a summary of 15 years in agricultural safety and health, with action steps for future directions.


Editor's Note: In an effort to provide a modicum of consistency with other publications, as many words as possible retain the definitions used in Lee et al. (2002) and/or Vela Acosta & Lee (2001). The remainder are defined specifically for use in this document.

Accident (Note: The term accident is not used by injury specialists and thus is not used in this document.) An unexpected and undesirable event that occurs by chance. Injuries are not accidents. "If injuries were indeed random, unpredictable acts of God, it would make little sense to talk about preventing them (other than through prayer). But injuries can be scientifically understood and societally controlled by modifying physical agents, environments, and behaviors. Rational counter-measures can be developed . . . injuries are preventable" (Foege WH: Introduction: Injuries Are Not Accidents. Law, Medicine & Health Care [17]:5, Spring 1989).

Adolescent For purposes of this document, an individual between the ages of 13 and 17 years.

Adolescent farmworker For this report, an adolescent farmworker is defined as a child from 12 to 17 years old who migrates to work in agriculture in one or more states, or as a child who works locally in seasonal agricultural but does not leave his or her permanent residence.

Age-appropriate work Work activities that are suitable based on physical and cognitive capabilities deemed to be typical of a particular age group. Age-appropriate work standards are required for purposes of labor law enforcement.

Agricultural employer Any person, corporation, association, or other legal entity that owns or operates an agricultural establishment, contracts with the owner or operator of an agricultural establishment in advance of production for the purchase of a crop and exercises substantial control over production, or recruits and supervises employees or is responsible for the management and condition of an agricultural establishment (OSHA 29 CFR 1928.110).

Agricultural hazard An existing or potential condition on or off the agricultural worksite, directly related to agricultural operations, that is associated with a high risk of physical or psychological harm. Examples of common agricultural hazards are rotating machinery parts, manure storage ponds, airborne contaminants in livestock confinement buildings, and chemicals.

Agricultural injury An injury occurring on the agricultural worksite directly related to agricultural operations, or an injury occurring off agricultural property that involves agricultural work, such as a tractor collision on a public road or in migrant housing. For purposes of this document, this definition also encompasses harm caused by exposure to hazards such as pesticides, volatile organic compounds, dusts, noise, and repetitive motion.

Agriculture The industry that involves the production of crops and livestock (farming) plus related services, forestry (excluding logging), and fishing.

Agromedicine A partnership of health and agricultural professionals that promotes the health and safety of agricultural producers and workers, their families, and consumers of agricultural products. Agromedicine addresses the health and safety concerns of agriculture, including forestry and fisheries, by a combination of the sciences of agriculture and medicine. This approach was established as a collaboration of the colleges of agriculture and schools of medicine and their partners.

The scope of agromedicine reaches all who are part of the universe relating to the practices or agents used by or products of the agricultural, forestry, and fishing industries. This comprehensive approach involves multiple disciplines. Examples of areas of agromedicine include agricultural chemicals (safety, toxicity, oncology, teratology, etc.), noise induced hearing loss, skin cancer, farm stress, insect-transmitted disease, and other areas of preventive, occupational, and environmental medicine, rural health, and primary care. (NAAC)

Barrier A real or perceived physical, psychological, or environmental factor that hinders or restricts a person's actions. Examples include economic hardship, tradition, cultural beliefs, and weather.

Best work practices Methods of making effective use of available experiences, systems, and resources, adapted and validated in specific agricultural contexts, with the goal of providing an optimal environment in performing any agricultural task, solving a work-related problem, improving a process, or actively managing a change. This definition includes two elements fundamental to the adoption of a best practice: a repository of experience with which to search for and analyze candidate practices, and an adoption process to identify a method for their adaptation and implementation in a specific agricultural context.

Children Individuals in the age range of 1 through 12 years.

Cumulative trauma Bodily injury from mechanical stress that develops gradually over weeks, months, or years from repeated stress on a particular body part.

Developmentally appropriate tasks Tasks that are suitable based on demarcations noting achievement of physical and psychological maturity. Developmentally appropriate task guidelines are applicable outside of enforced work standards.

Effectiveness The improvement in health outcome that a prevention strategy can produce in a typical community based setting.

Engineering controls Methods of controlling worker exposure by modifying the source of or means of exposure to hazards, or by reducing their quantity.

Ergonomics The study of human characteristics for the appropriate design of living and working environments.

Exposure Contact with a chemical, biological, or radiological hazard; also, the close proximity to an unprotected physical hazard.

Family farm An operating entity owned and operated by a family or extended family that is directly involved in the work and the necessary decision making for, and that derives a portion of their income from, crop or animal production.

Farm Any place from which $1000 or more of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the census year (standard U.S. Department of Agriculture definition).

Farm labor contractor A person (other than an agricultural employer, an agricultural association, or an employee of an agricultural employer or agricultural association) who receives a fee for performing farm labor contracting activities.

Farm worker A person who is employed by a farm owner to conduct agricultural work. This term includes those who are employed full-time, part-time, or seasonally, and who may or may not migrate. However, these individuals are exclusive of those identified as farmworkers, migrant farmworkers, and seasonal farmworkers.

Farmworkers A diverse population, whose composition varies from region to region. However, it is estimated that 85% of all migrant workers are minorities, of whom most are Hispanic (including Mexican-Americans as well as Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, and workers from Central and South America). The migrant population also includes black Americans, Jamaicans, Haitians, Laotians, Thais, and other racial and ethnic minorities. (National Center for Farmworker Health, Inc.)

Fieldwork Work related to planting, cultivating, or harvesting operations (which occurs in the field rather than in a processing plant or packing shed).

H2A Guestworker Program [Labor Certification Process for Temporary Agricultural Employment in the United States (H-2A Workers)]

    20 CFR 655.90-Scope and purpose of subpart B.

    Section Number: 655.90, Section Name: Scope and purpose of subpart B.

    (a) General. This subpart sets out the procedures established by the Secretary of Labor to acquire information sufficient to make factual determinations of:

    (1) Whether there are sufficient able, willing, and qualified U.S. workers available to perform the temporary and seasonal agricultural employment for which an employer desires to import nonimmigrant foreign workers (H-2A workers); and

    (2) whether the employment of H-2A workers will adversely affect the wages and working conditions of workers in the United States similarly employed. Under the authority of the INA, the Secretary of Labor has promulgated the regulations in this subpart. This subpart sets forth the requirements and procedures applicable to requests for certification by employers seeking the services of temporary foreign workers in agriculture.

    This subpart provides the Secretary's methodology for the twofold determination of availability of domestic workers and of any adverse effect which would be occasioned by the use of foreign workers, for particular temporary and seasonal agricultural jobs in the United States.

    (b) The statutory standard. (1) A petitioner for H-2A workers must apply to the Secretary of Labor for a certification that, as stated in the INA (Immigration and Nationality Act, addition for clarification):

      (A) there are not sufficient workers who are able, willing, and qualified, and who will be available at the time and place needed, to perform the labor or services involved in the petition, and

      (B) the employment of the alien in such labor or services will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of workers in the United States similarly employed. (U. S. Department of Labor)
Hazard A condition or changing set of circumstances that presents a potential for injury, illness, or property damage. The potential or inherent characteristics of an activity, condition, or circumstance that can produce adverse and harmful consequences.

Health A state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity (World Health Organization).

Health disparity A gap in the health status of different groups of people, in which one group is healthier than the other group or groups. Healthy People 2010 has two primary goals: (1) to increase the quality and years of healthy life and (2) to eliminate health disparities. These two goals are supported by 467 objectives in 28 focus areas. (For details, see

Incentive A reward or punishment that induces action.

Injury Physical harm or damage to some part of the body resulting from an exchange of mechanical, chemical, thermal, electrical, or other environmental energy that exceeds the body's tolerance.

Injury control Incorporates multiple activities to reduce severity of injury, including prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation.

Injury prevention Attempts to reduce the incidence of injury, usually by educational, engineering, environmental, and enforcement interventions.

Migrant farmworker A farmworker who is required to be absent overnight from his or her permanent place of residence.

Occupational health An area concerned with health in its relation to work and the working environment; including studies of all factors relating to work, working methods, conditions of work, and the working environment that may cause disease, injury, or deviation from health.

Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs) Guidelines limiting the amount or concentration of a substance in the air. They may also contain a skin designation. PELs are enforceable. OSHA PELs are based on an eight-hour time weighted average (TWA) exposure. Employers who use regulated substances must control exposures to be below the PELs for those substances. Exposure limits usually represent the maximum amount (concentration) of a chemical that can be present in the air without presenting a health hazard. However, exposure limits may not always be completely protective.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) Clothing, devices, or solutions worn by or applied to an individual to serve as a barrier between the human body and potential hazards in the environment. Commonly used forms of PPE in agriculture include hats, long-sleeve shirts, long pants, gloves, safety goggles, sunscreen, ear plugs, and masks.

Primary care providers A term referring to physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners.

Production agriculture A term used to replace farming since it has broader application to the wide range of complex machinery, sophisticated crop and livestock management practices, and relationships with associated agricultural businesses.

Recommended Exposure Limits (RELs) Acting under the authority of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (29 USC Chapter 15) and the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (30 USC Chapter 22), NIOSH develops and periodically revises RELs for hazardous substances or conditions in the workplace. NIOSH also recommends appropriate preventive measures to reduce or eliminate the adverse health and safety effects of these hazards. To formulate these recommendations, NIOSH evaluates all known and available medical, biological, engineering, chemical, trade, and other information relevant to the hazard. These recommendations are then published and transmitted to OSHA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) for use in promulgating legal standards. (NIOSH)

Risk A measure of the probability and consequences of all hazards associated with an activity or condition.

Rural area The Census Bureau's classification of "rural" consists of all territory, population, and housing units located outside of urbanized areas (UAs) and urban clusters (UCs). The rural component contains both place and nonplace territory. Geographic entities, such as census tracts, counties, metropolitan areas, and the territory outside metropolitan areas, often are "split" between urban and rural territory, and the population and housing units they contain often are partly classified as urban and partly classified as rural.

For Census 2000, the Census Bureau classifies as "urban" all territory, population, and housing units located within a UA or UC. It delineates UA and UC boundaries to encompass densely settled territory, which consists of:
  • Core census block groups or blocks that have a population density of at least 1000 people per square mile
  • Surrounding census blocks that have an overall density of at least 500 people per square mile
In addition, under certain conditions, less densely settled territory may be part of a UA or UC. (United States Census Bureau)

Safe Free from danger, hazard, or injury.

Safety A state of control of recognized hazards to attain an acceptable level of risk; also, an attitude that influences behavior of individuals in a positive manner in their relationships with others, in doing routine tasks and in reactions to situations that may occur.

Safety program Activities designed to assist employees in the recognition, understanding, and control of hazards in the workplace.

Seasonal farmworker A person employed in agricultural work of a seasonal or other temporary nature who is not required to be absent overnight from his or her permanent place of residence.

Stress A physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation or fatigue.

Toxin Any poisonous substance (or any poisonous isomer, homologue, or derivative of such a substance), regardless of its origin or method of production.

Undocumented farmworkers Farmworkers who enter the country illegally; that is, they do not possess the documentation necessary to be admitted to the United States under the following guidelines:
    Under authority granted by the INA, as amended, an immigration inspector may question any person coming into the United States to determine his or her admissibility. In addition, an inspector has authority to search without warrant the person and effects of any person seeking admission, if there is reason to believe that grounds of exclusion exist which may be disclosed by such search. The INA is based on the law of presumption-an applicant for admission is presumed to be an alien until he or she shows evidence of citizenship, and an alien is presumed to be an immigrant until he or she proves that he or she fits into one of the nonimmigrant classifications. (U.S. Department of Justice)

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