Farms, ranches, and other production agriculture worksites are essential to powering America’s food supply chain. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has introduced up to date guidelines for workers continuing operations while remaining safe and healthy on the farm during the COVID-19 outbreak. Additionally, the Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health (GPCAH) offers COVID-19-related materials and resources for agricultural workers during these unprecedented times. We also offer helpful tips and resources to help pinpoint the latest CDC guidelines on the GPCAH Facebook and Twitter pages.
Agricultural worksites face unique challenges amidst the spread of COVID-19. Frequent close contact with coworkers in barns and fields, sharing of transportation and equipment, social gatherings in areas where community spread exists, and, in some cases, even shared living and eating spaces all make it difficult to maneuver within the new “normal” of preventative measures encouraged by the CDC.
Renée Anthony, professor of occupational and environmental health and GPCAH director said, “I encourage everyone involved with farming and agricultural production to visit the CDC’s website and read these important guidelines that promote health and safety practices for employers and their employees.”
The guidelines provide strategies to identify at-risk practices and to implement engineering controls, sanitation and cleaning procedures, administrative controls, all aimed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 among farmworkers. Recommendations for face coverings are explained to identify the benefits and limitations of these interim control options.
Also included are guidelines for employers who provide housing and transportation for their workers. This guidance recommends developing a safety plan, providing health screenings to identify for COVID-19 symptoms (including temperature checks and symptom reviews). It also recommends providing handwashing stations, increasing the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting shared equipment and spaces, and maintaining the critical 6-feet social distance practice even when wearing cloth face coverings. The guidelines also recommend when to consider adding physical barriers in close quarters, reducing crew sizes, staggering work shifts and break times, and physically alternating worker placement within crop rows.
“It is essential for workers to know that cloth face coverings are not respirators and do not protect people from exposure. However, these coverings do help contain the spread of respiratory droplets, protecting those working around you,” Anthony said. “As summer approaches, farmers also need to be aware that these masks can increase the risk of heat-related illness, so an increase in water and work breaks is necessary.”
Anthony also encourages farm workers and producers to visit GPCAH.org to access the COVID-19 resource page and FAQ, suggest additional topics, and ask any questions you may have about interpreting the CDC guidelines.
Produced by the Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health
Story: Jenn Patterson, Communications Coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org; 319-594-2704)
The mission of the GPCAH is to prevent agricultural injury and illness and improve safety and health among agricultural communities.
To accomplish this mission, the Center advances knowledge through scientific research and prevents agricultural injury and illness through education, outreach, and intervention programs.
The GPCAH is funded by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The NIOSH Agricultural Centers were established as part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) / NIOSH Agricultural Health and Safety Initiative in 1990. The Centers were established by cooperative agreement to conduct research, education, and prevention projects to address the nation’s pressing agricultural health and safety problems. Geographically, the Centers are distributed throughout the nation to be responsive to the agricultural health and safety issues unique to the different regions.
Our mission is to prevent agricultural injury and illness and improve safety and health among agricultural communities.
Who we are
The GPCAH, founded in 1990, is a nationally recognized agricultural research, education, and prevention center located within the University of Iowa’s College of Public Health. Our relationship with Iowa’s rural communities is particularly meaningful when considering (i) 1 in 5 Iowans work in agriculture-related jobs, (ii) 221,000 Iowa farmers produce $30.8 billion in products per year, and (iii) farmer fatality rates in Iowa are 11 times the national average for all workers.
We do not stop working at Iowa’s borders. The GPCAH region (producing much of this nation’s food across 582,000 farms) carries a significant burden of severe occupational injuries and agricultural-related fatalities.This region, America’s most agriculturally intensive, includes Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, and North Dakota
As one of 11 nationally-funded NIOSH centers, we are dedicated to improving the safety and health of agricultural workers situated throughout America’s Heartland. View our faculty and staff here and our advisory committees here.
We serve these nine states in the region. The Midwest is America’s most agriculturally intensive region, which results in a significantly higher number of agricultural injuries and illnesses when compared to other regions.
What we do
We are committed to improving the safety and health of agricultural communities through scientific research, education, outreach, and intervention programming. Our current priorities include
- providing outreach and education through presentations and events, online resources, and educational opportunities such as our annual Agriculural Health and Safety Core Course.
- promoting innovative outreach and research efforts to prevent agricultural injury and illness through our pilot grant program
- promoting the multi-center web site “Telling the Story” which highlights personal accounts and in-depth coverage of agricultural injuries and fatalities
- assessing and responding to regional needs through evaluation and ongoing interaction with stakeholders
What we did in 2018
The list below highlights the kinds of work that we do. Find more details in our annual report and Center Projects pages.
- Introduced the Pesticide Drift Story Mapping project, a new online tool that helps Iowa farmers more efficiently plan pesticide applications.
- Developed and piloted SaferTrek, a GPS/video device that measures travel distance between vehicles and identifies other motorists driving behaviors. We have also put together an advisory committee. Learn more here.
- Designed and built a prototype mobile air filtration system to remove dust and bioaerosols from swine farrowing barns. Learn more here.
- Evaluated performance of low-cost H2S (hydrogen sulfide) monitors for use in livestock operations, communicated findings to agricultural engineers, and recommended new maintenance procedures to farmers.
- Collaborated with extension personnel to provide H2S training to over 200 cattle producers, farmworkers, and manure applicators in IA and WI. Provided information on hazards, best practices, and hands-on use of gas monitors. One farmer stated that once he used a monitor, he “realized the nature of the beast and that the odds are against you” without them.
- Partnered with a national insurance company to develop a farm hazard assessment tool for use by insurance agents.
- Translated surveillance findings into risk and prevention posters for regional educators to incorporate into agricultural programs at community colleges and universities. Provided posters to more than 100 regional educators.
We invite your to explore our website and social media outlets to learn more. Please contact email@example.com if you have any comments or concerns.
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University of Iowa researchers launch new website to map pesticide drift
A new online tool from the University of Iowa can help Iowa farmers more efficiently plan their annual pesticide applications.
The tool, an interactive map, tracked and analyzed 450 cases of drift that were reported to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and Pesticide Bureau from 2010 to 2015. It was compiled by the Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health (GPCAH) in the College of Public Health.
“These story maps provide information directly to farming and rural communities,” says Jenna Gibbs, GPCAH coordinator. “Our hope is to see fewer drift cases over time by sharing what was learned from cases in the past.”
Among the findings from analyzing five years of reports:
–higher humidity reduces drift potential.
–fewer than one-third of the drift incidents involved aerial applications by crop dusters; most drift cases were from ground sprayers.
–the study confirmed manufacturers’ recommendations that pesticides be applied when windspeeds are less than 10 mph.
Jenna Gibbs says drift costs farmers money because it reduces the amount of pesticide that lands on their own crops. It also has the potential to damage neighboring crops and property, and questions have been raised about health impacts to people and livestock.
The map, she says, was a response to those concerns. Individual users can look at their own county and click on individual cases to learn more about weather and application factors influencing drift cases.
“The goal was to identify and communicate important risk factors associated with pesticide drift events to both pesticide applicators and the general public,” says Gibbs. “It also provides useful best practices for applicators to help them plan their pesticide application. For example, the maps explain how both wind and relative humidity factor into drift cases, how drifts changed across agricultural seasons, and what types of damage occurred from drifting pesticides in Iowa.”
The online maps were compiled by Jessica Ricchio and Amy Kopale, graduate students in public health and geography, who gathered data from the state narrative reports that sometimes exceeded 40 pages. Gibbs says the maps provide both a local and statewide picture of the impact of drift, with cases reported in nearly every county in Iowa.
Written by Tom Snee, Office of Media Relations, University of Iowa
Jenn Patterson, MLitt, GPCAH Communications Coordinator