Reducing illnesses and injuries in the agricultural workplace

Research findings aimed at reducing illnesses and injuries in the agricultural workplace will translate into safe farm practices when the fourth Biennial Agricultural Health and Safety Conference takes place Sept. 20-22 on the Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, Calif.

”Despite technological advances, agriculture remains as one of the country’s most hazardous occupations,” said physician Marc Schenker, director of the Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety (WCAHS), headquartered at the University of California, Davis. “This conference is an update on health and safety in western agriculture, with a particular focus on how research findings are translated into safer and healthier practices.”

Themed “Health and Safety in Western Agriculture: Research to Practice,” the conference is co-sponsored by WCAHS, Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center (PNASH) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

At the center of the two-day conference is the new NIOSH initiative, Research to Practice (r2p), which “focuses on the transfer and translation of research findings, technologies and information into highly effective prevention practices and products.” Schenker said.

The goal: to reduce illnesses and injuries using effective NIOSH and NIOSH-funded research findings. Among NIOSH successes are a personal dust monitor for particle exposure assessment exposure; a hand-wipe technology for detecting lead; a booklet on injury prevention in the commercial fishing industry; a kit for detecting mold; and a newly formed partnership geared toward reducing worker exposure to asphalt fumes.

Conference participants will learn how research translates into educational, engineering, advocacy, regulatory and other approaches to make the farm a safer workplace, Schenker said. The conference is geared toward researchers, educators, public health workers, advocacy groups, farm owners and managers, and farmworker groups.

The conference sessions include:

· Session 1: “Challenges and Opportunities of Research to Practice (r2p),” chaired by Don Villarejo, retired director of the California Institute for Rural Studies in Davis, and Richard Fenske, PNASH director

· Session 2: “Policy and Behavior Implications of r2p,” chaired by former UC Davis employee Jennifer Weber, now with the Agricultural Consultation and Training Program, Arizona Department of Agriculture; and Sabina Swift, assistant specialist, University of Hawaii, Manoa

· Session 3: “Agrochemicals/Respiratory: r2p Issues,” chaired by Kent Pinkerton, associate director of WCAHS

· Session 4: “Community-Based r2p,” chaired by Marcy Harrington, center manager, Operations and Outreach, PNASH; and Helen Murphy, outreach director of PNASH

· Session 5: “Agricultural Engineering,” chaired by Fadi Fathallah, associate professor, biological and agricultural engineering, UC Davis

The conference center, located on the Monterey Peninsula, is near the Salinas Valley, one of California’s most productive agricultural regions. Participants who attend a reception in the Steinbeck Museum in Salinas will receive a copy of John Steinbeck’s Pulitzer-Prize winning epic, “The Grapes of Wrath,” depicting the migration of a dust bowl farm family from Oklahoma to California during the Great Depression.

The conference registration fee of $240 includes all meals, the pre-meeting Boardwalk barbecue at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 20, and the Steinbeck Museum dinner and tour on Thursday evening, Sept. 21. A Salinas Valley farm tour (at an additional cost of $30 to include lunch and transportation) will take place on Saturday, Sept. 23. See conference Web site for housing information.

For additional details and the conference schedule, go to, or contact Sandra Freeland at (530) 752-4050 or [email protected]

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