Worker Health and Safety in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations

Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health
  • Calvo, Michelle S.;
  • Mitloehner, Frank M.


A trend in consolidating livestock and poultry operations into concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) potentially increases farm worker exposure to the hazards associated with high animal density conditions. The two main contributors of documented injury (fatal and non-fatal) are related to accidents with machinery and animals. Tractor rollovers are the leading accident in the area of farming machinery issues; kicks, bites, and workers being pinned between animals and fixed objects are non-machinery issues typically caused by inadequate precautions taken in the vicinity of livestock. These types of accidents are well documented; however, recommended safety strategies continue to be studied to reduce the risks and numbers of injuries associated with both machines and animals. Unlike accidents involving machinery and animals, air emission exposure and potential health effects from CAFOs are not well documented. CAFOs have the potential to show higher gaseous and particulate matter emissions compared to smaller farms. Pollutants like hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, and endotoxin are emitted on CAFOs and can potentially affect worker health. These specific air emissions, their sources, and some of their harmful capabilities have been identified, and regulations have been implemented to create improved work environments on CAFOs. Despite such precautions, farm workers continue to report respiratory health symptoms related to their work environment. Air pollutant exposure and its health effects on farm workers require focused research to arrive at improved safety strategies that include mitigation techniques and protective gear to minimize adverse effects of working in CAFOs.

Full article can be found in: Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health
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