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UI study looks at work-related injuries among Iowa farmers
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Ten percent of nearly 400 Iowa farmers surveyed during
a farm family health study in 1994 reported having been injured in the
previous year while doing farm work, according to a published report by
researchers at the University of Iowa College of Medicine.
The survey, part of the Iowa Farm Family Health and Hazard Surveillance
Project, was conducted at the UI's Injury Prevention Research Center. The
study aimed to determine the health and injury status of Iowa's farm families.
Since farming is one of the most hazardous occupations, the researchers
were interested in determining what risk factors were associated with farming-related
Forty (10.3 percent) of the farmers reported being injured in the previous
12 months. Overexertion and strenuous movement was cited as the leading
type of injury; in fact, back injuries made up more than half of the reported
injuries. Cuts and lacerations were the second leading type of injury,
followed by broken bones and fractures.
The study was published in last month's issue of the American Journal
of Industrial Medicine.
"This study is one of the few that have been done based on a representative
sample of farming populations from an entire state," says Mary Lewis,
UI research assistant and the article's lead author. "Our goal was
to assess the types of injuries and risk factors associated with farm-related
work, which is an important step in developing prevention methods."
The researchers found that most of the reported injuries occurred during
work with livestock, work involving farm equipment or during routine chores.
Younger farmers (those born after 1940) were more than three times likely
to be injured on the job, according to the study. Other identified risk
factors associated with injuries included having an impairment or health
problem that limits the type or amount of work that can be done, and having
gotten acids or alkalis on the skin.
The study participants represented 18 Iowa counties, two counties from
each of the state's nine crop and livestock reporting regions. Working
with the Iowa Agricultural Statistics Service in Des Moines, a division
of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that maintains a database of nearly
all of Iowa's farmers, the researchers randomly selected principal farm
operators and mailed questionnaires to those living and/or working full
time on the farm.
Interestingly, the researchers found that safety training made little
difference in injury outcomes. Farmers who reported having some safety
training had only a slightly lower risk of injury.
"This is not to say that farm safety training is ineffective,"
Lewis notes. "Rather, it suggests that other approaches, such as improving
farm equipment and workplace design, also need to be considered as ways
to reduce farming-related injuries."