During the past decade, the apple warehouse industry in Washington state has grown considerably, both in production and technology. Up to 15,000 employees work in warehouses with a large percentage of women. Approximately two-thirds of these workers are of Mexican descent. Both management and labor have identified health and safety concerns in the industry, such as musculoskeletal diseases, carbon monoxide poisoning, and slips and falls. Reported occupational health and safety research and evaluations have, for the most part, taken place in the more traditional and hazardous food processing plants, such as meat packing facilities and canneries. No studies evaluating the hazards associated with manually packing fresh fruit for market and cold room storage have been identified. Our project was designed to characterize and better understand the health, ergonomic, and safety hazards in the Washington apple warehouse industry, and to identify any controls currently in use that are designed to reduce worker injury and illness.
Chemical Exposure | Hearing/Noise | Musculoskeletal | Neurological Effects | Respiratory Health
Hazard Evaluation | Social & Economic |Research & Health Care
Community Partnership | Interventions | Outreach
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This two-year exploratory project investigated a probable cause of Yakima County’s high rates of diarrheal illness – bacterial pathogens from livestock, taken home or in well water. It is hypothesized that occupational and environmental exposure pathways from livestock operations pose a significant risk of exposure to zoonotic bacterial contamination for farmworkers and their families. This study demonstrates the effectiveness of currently available methods for recovery of example bacteria from various surfaces. These methods are available to exposure science researchers. Additionally this study examines the roles of organism die-off and the experimental design of validation studies in the reported efficacy for surface sampling methods.
Climate change will have serious and long-term consequences for public health. The greatest impacts will be in cities with milder summers, less air conditioning and higher population density, which are characteristic of the Pacific Northwest. A multi-disciplinary team of UW scientists will evaluate the impact of climate change on human health in the Pacific Northwest, work with local communities to study health risks that will likely occur in the next 35 years and uncover how communities might mitigate those risks. This 3-year project aims to develop an evidence-based forecast of health impacts for different communities. This evidence will enable public health officials to develop specific plans of action to prevent health risks associated with climate change.
Read the UW News Article: UW researchers to study impacts of climate change on health in the Pacific Northwest
Dr. June Spector addressed a pressing information need – surveillance of non-fatal injuries. In collaboration with commercial fishing leaders and researchers at NIOSH, PNASH conducted an exploratory project to build new agreements with a variety of data sources (insurers, clinics, hospitals) and develop a system to characterize nonfatal injuries and intervention opportunities. Two data sources offered the UW researchers enough information to analyze: the US Coast Guard’s (USCG) database (termed MISLE) and the database of a Seattle-based insurance claims adjustor. They were able to use these sources to describe non-fatal injury data for Washington-based commercial fishers.
In this exploratory review, analysts found:
- The most common injuries occur to workers on deck.
- Wrists and hands were the most common anatomical sites of injury in both data sources.
- Wrist and hand injuries frequently appear to be due to crush injuries, particularly during cargo handling operations, particularly when moving cases of frozen fish.
These findings suggest that hand-crush protection may prevent significant numbers of injuries, but specifics about the activities leading to injury were not available.
“We hope our results will motivate stakeholders in commercial fishing to organize a central database for non-fatal injury collection” – June Spector, PI.
The extent and severity of agricultural health and safety hazards are largely unknown in the Pacific Northwest region. This project was designed to engage various constituencies familiar with agricultural health and safety throughout Region X. This process aimed to look broadly and long-term at the issues of farming, fishing, and forestry occupational safety and health in our regions, including technical, social, and economic dimensions involve a diverse group of stakeholders in identifying issues that can be addressed by occupational safety and health research; establish a priority list, or agenda, of occupational safety and health research topics relevant to Northwest farming, fishing, and forestry; and provide a continuing forum for discussion of key health and safety issues for the region.
The objectives of this project were to: quantify the impact of dermatitis on the farming and forestry work force; characterize the most important causes; and develop interventions to control the major causes of farming and forestry workplace dermatitis in Region X.
This project also explored pre-collected data systems for use in characterizing dermatitis in commercial fishing.
Vegetation was the leading cause of agricultural dermatitis but "unknown" was the second leading cause followed by "unspecified chemicals," "insecticides," and "soaps and detergents." Farm workers were the category of workers who were represented most frequently among agricultural dermatitis claims, representing 58.7% of all agricultural dermatoses claims. The majority of funds supporting this project derived from the Washington Medical Aid and Accident Fund through the Center.
Direct assessment of the proportion of teenagers working in agriculture and the percent injured is sparsely reported in the literature and has not been performed in the Northwest United States. This project estimated the proportion of teenage children who work for pay in agriculturally related jobs in a rural town in Washington's Yakima Valley. Secondary goals were to estimate the injury rate among the teenage workers in the sample, to identify the patterns of work in relationship to school, and to characterize the treatment and outcome of these work related injuries. A random digit dialing survey targeted to a rural town composed of non-migratory agriculture workers of Mexican descent was employed to obtain these estimates.
We are working to identify agricultural safety and health issues among Hmong refugee farmers in Washington State. This assessment of work conditions, equipment and practices uses novel community-based participatory approaches along with conventional industrial hygiene methods.
This project documented occupational injuries and illnesses and related medical treatment among immigrant, Spanish-speaking forest workers in southern Oregon. In addition the project informed the development of a pilot job health and safety promotora program for these workers that The Alliance of Forest Workers and Harvesters-Labor Occupational Health Program at the University of California, Berkeley- Lomakatsi Restoration Project partnership will be initiating with separate funding.
With a small grant from PNASH, this partnership piloted a job health and safety promotora program for these workers. Alliance staff recruited and trained promotores to staff the program as well as to collaborate in developing and conducting a sample survey among forest services workers.
Contacting workers through snowball sampling, the promotoras administered the questionnaire to 150 workers, representing a response rate of 75%. Principal findings show that injury rates among forest workers are much higher than rates reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and that forest workers and employers fail to report on-the-job injuries at rates consistent with other studies. The forest workers surveyed reported specific concerns about safety training and working conditions. The needs raised by workers will help this partnership in developing a promotora program.
Our goal is to identify potential risk factors for heat-related illness (HRI) and to quantify the physiological effects of heat exposure (heat strain) in agricultural workers. Our results will generate baseline data, setting the stage for future larger studies of the association between potential HRI risk factors and heat effects and studies of interventions to reduce HRI.
Dairy farming requires close contact between people and animals with transmissions that can be a source of zoonotic disease. In this small pilot a multidisciplinary team will survey work practices to provide insight into modifiable risk factors for microbial transmission with implications for the health of workers, dairy cows and the environment in a “One Health” model.
Researchers evaluated a Washington State Department of Labor and Industries’ accident prevention program implemented by their Yakima regional office in Kittitas, Grant, and Adams counties. The three-year injury prevention program aimed to reduce the frequency and cost of claims that are related to falls from ladders in the orchard and to eye injuries. Researchers conducted semi-structured interviews with farm workers who were injured on the job following a fall from a ladder and who filed a claim prior to the L&I implementation of the prevention program. Information was collected on the circumstances of the injury, prior training, knowledge of and barriers to the use of preventive practices, and the injured worker’s perception of what could have been done to prevent the accident and related injury. Investigators then conducted field assessments of the level of program implementation and analyzed pre- and post-program claims data among intervention and non-intervention growers to determine the degree of program effectiveness.
The objectives of this cross-sectional questionnaire study were to: estimate the frequency of injuries among Washington state purse seiners; identify major injury patterns among seiners; characterize the most hazardous tasks and potential methods for intervention among the purse seiner fleet.
Self-reporting and self-mailing questionnaires were distributed to the purse seiner fleet during the fishing season in southeast Alaska. The vast majority of these boats are owned and operated by Washington state residents.