Youth 2 Work OSHA U.S. Department of Labor
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Workers and Pickers

Do You Know... Youth agricultural workers are exposed to a variety of environmental hazards that are potentially harmful to their health and well-being. Farmers and farm workers suffer from increased rates of respiratory diseases, noise-induced hearing loss, skin disorders, certain cancers, chemical toxicity, and heat-related illnesses. There are precautions that can be taken to minimize or eliminate the following potential hazards workers may encounter.

Workers picking crops
Overexertion is the leading accident type in most types of agribusinesses. These types of accidents (strains and sprains) account for nearly 30 percent of all serious accidents. These are typically lifting, pulling, pushing, and carrying-type activities. More attention should be given to proper ways to avoid injuries when involved in these types of activities.

Strains and Sprains
Potential Hazard

Repetitive prolonged reaching, bending, and lifting can lead to back strains and sprains.

Teen Safety Solutions

Employers have the primary responsibility for protecting the safety and health of their workers. Employees are responsible for following the safe work practices of their employers.

    Worker on ladder
  • Maintain good back posture while working.

  • Shift weight from foot to foot, when standing and bending for long periods.

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, one foot slightly in front of the other.

  • Keep a straight back and move down to a squatting position using leg muscles.

  • Turn feet and arms to reach for objects rather than twisting your back.

  • Take frequent stretch breaks to avoid overusing muscles.

  • Rotate to other tasks.

  • Get help to lift heavy items (over 35 pounds).

Employer Safety Solutions

Employers have the primary responsibility for protecting the safety and health of their workers. Employees are responsible for following the safe work practices of their employers.

  • Maintain all equipment and ensure that workers are using the right equipment for the right job.

    • Provide handles on all containers.

    • Provide dollies, pallet trucks, or utility carts that have to be carried more than a few feet.

    • Provide roller conveyors for bags or boxes of vegetables or chemicals that are handled often to reduce lifting stress.

  • Train all employees in work methods, whether full-time or seasonal. Do not allow workers to begin work without safety training.

  • Train all workers, including supervisors and foremen, in how to handle emergency situations.

  • Have supervisors closely monitor workers as they begin each new workday to identify those who need further training or will not be able to complete work tasks safely.


Noise
Potential Hazard

Worker exposure to high-intensity noise from working around noisy machinery, animals, and firearms.

Teen Safety Solutions

Employers have the primary responsibility for protecting the safety and health of their workers. Employees are responsible for following the safe work practices of their employers.

  • Use hearing protection such as earplugs or muffs to prevent hearing loss around noisy machinery.

  • Use hearing protection from the minute noise begins.

  • Limit the duration of noise exposure if you are without ear protection.

  • Use the "two arm rule." If you need to raise your voice to be heard when you are two arm lengths from the other person, the noise level is probably high enough that you need to protect your hearing.

  • Have a hearing test if you experience ringing in your ears.

Employer Safety Solutions

Employers have the primary responsibility for protecting the safety and health of their workers. Employees are responsible for following the safe work practices of their employers.

  • Keep machinery and equipment well-lubricated and well-maintained. Regularly tighten all components.

  • Replace defective mufflers and exhaust system parts. Do not use a "straight pipe" exhaust for tractors or any other engines. These pipes emit damaging sound levels for minimal power increase.

  • Reduce noise from stationary equipment by enclosing components or building acoustic barriers or heavy partitions.


Chemicals
Potential Hazard

If you are under 16 years old, Child Labor Laws forbid you from handling certain classes and types of chemicals or pesticides; state laws may be even more stringent. For more information about chemical hazards refer to the Chemicals section.

Teen Safety Solutions

Employers have the primary responsibility for protecting the safety and health of their workers. Employees are responsible for following the safe work practices of their employers.

    Machine applying chemicals to crops
  • Wear all provided protective clothing.

  • Wash before eating, drinking, smoking, using chewing gum or tobacco, or using the toilet.

  • Avoid contact with plants or chemicals to which your are sensitive.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth if your hands might be contaminated with chemicals.
Employer Safety Solutions

Employers have the primary responsibility for protecting the safety and health of their workers. Employees are responsible for following the safe work practices of their employers.

  • Train workers to be able to identify chemical poisoning.

  • Develop an emergency plan and train workers in procedures to follow in case of a spill, fire, or other emergency.


Skin Disorders and Cancers
Potential Hazard - Skin Cancer

Employees may become more prone to skin cancer from spending long hours working in the sun. The back of the neck may be especially vulnerable to the rays of the sun.

Teen Safety Solutions

Employers have the primary responsibility for protecting the safety and health of their workers. Employees are responsible for following the safe work practices of their employers.

  • Wear a sunblock that absorbs or deflects ultraviolet rays.

  • Wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts, pants, and wide-brimmed hats.

  • Avoid overexposure to the sun, especially between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

  • Conduct regular self-examinations for early detection of trouble spots of skin disorders and seek medical help for problems.

Potential Hazard - Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is a skin disorder that occurs among agricultural workers. There are two general categories of dermatitis: irritant and allergic. Irritants act directly on the skin at the place of contact. Allergic sensitizers, however, cause changes in the immune system so that subsequent contact produces a reaction. Other types of agricultural dermatitis include heat rash, origin infections, and insect and plant irritants.

Teen Safety Solutions

Employers have the primary responsibility for protecting the safety and health of their workers. Employees are responsible for following the safe work practices of their employers.

    Workers loading pumpkins
  • Wear protective clothing, including gloves.

  • Avoid contact with plants or chemicals to which you are sensitive.

  • Be aware of the symptoms caused by contact with an irritating substance such as:

    • Fluid-filled bumps or blisters.

    • Tenderness and redness of skin.

    • Oozing cracks or fissures in irritated, reddened areas.

    • Itching and burning.
  • Seek medical attention for skin disorders.

Employer Safety Solutions

Employers have the primary responsibility for protecting the safety and health of their workers. Employees are responsible for following the safe work practices of their employers.

  • Encourage employees to wash frequently.

  • Provide workers with PPE, such as gloves.


Respiratory
Potential Hazard

Farm work may present several respiratory hazards to workers. Exposure to nuisance dust, moldy hay, straw, grain, as well as gases, has been linked to excessive coughing and congestion in many workers, as well as long-term diseases such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, Organic Dust Toxic Syndrome (ODTS), and Farmer's Lung. For more information about respiratory hazards, refer to the Organic Dust section.

Teen Safety Solutions

Employers have the primary responsibility for protecting the safety and health of their workers. Employees are responsible for following the safe work practices of their employers.

    Combine creating dust
  • Be aware of the health effects of breathing toxic dust. If you are involved in any of the following areas, you may need respiratory protection against organic dust:

    • Working in dusty fields and buildings.

    • Handling moldy hay.

    • Working in silos or uncapping silos.

    • Cleaning grain bins.

Employer Safety Solutions

Employers have the primary responsibility for protecting the safety and health of their workers. Employees are responsible for following the safe work practices of their employers.

  • Provide workers with respirators to match the exposure danger in their work. There are many types of respirators available and it is important to match the respirator to the job. Be sure to select a respirator certified by NIOSH. Provide training and fit testing to employees using respirators.

  • Take preventative measures to minimize contamination.


Heat Stress
Potential Hazard

Dehydration (the loss of body fluids due to perspiration) is the cause of most heat disorders. Energetic activity on hot days can cause the body to lose one to one-and-a-half quarts of fluid per hour. In a few hours, you could lose as much as 6 percent of your body weight. A loss of only 2 to 3 percent of your body weight decreases blood circulation, leading to extreme discomfort and thirst, along with higher body temperature and rapid pulse. You could then suffer from heat cramps, dizziness, headaches, excessive sweating, and a feeling of weakness. All of these symptoms are signs of heat exhaustion. You may suffer from heat stroke when you lose 3 to 6 percent of your body weight and your body stops perspiring and your temperature increases rapidly. Convulsions, unconsciousness, and death are possible.

Teen Safety Solutions

Employers have the primary responsibility for protecting the safety and health of their workers. Employees are responsible for following the safe work practices of their employers.

  • Wear proper protective clothing (cool, loose, and light-colored), including a wide-brimmed hat.

  • Take breaks and drink plenty of water - 10 to 12 ounces every half hour.

  • Do strenuous work at the coolest time of day.

  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine. These make the body lose water and increase the risk for heat illnesses.

  • Know the symptoms and treatment for heat stroke, the most serious illness caused by overheating:

    • Symptoms include dry, hot, red, or spotted skin. You may experience a rapid and strong pulse, and become extremely weak and even lose consciousness.

    • Treatment includes placing the victim in a cool or shady area and fanning them to promote cooling. Remove outer clothing and sponge the skin using cool water. Call an ambulance immediately.

Employer Safety Solutions

Employers have the primary responsibility for protecting the safety and health of their workers. Employees are responsible for following the safe work practices of their employers.

  • Have a person certified in first aid (with knowledge of the symptoms and treatment of heat stroke) on every field work team.

  • Train workers to be aware of the dangers of working in the heat and ensure that they know who is trained in first aid.

  • Require crews to take breaks and drink water, especially crews working at piece rate.

  • Supply adequate water and allow reasonable opportunities to drink.

  • Provide shade for workers as possible.

  • Allow workers to slow the work pace or reduce the work load in hot weather, especially if they begin to feel uncomfortable.

  • Move any worker who is overcome with heat to a cool area and call for immediate medical help.


Temporary Labor Camps and Seasonal Work
Potential Hazard

Seasonal field workers or workers in temporary labor camps may be exposed to poor living conditions.

Employers have the primary responsibility for protecting the safety and health of their workers. Employees are responsible for following the safe work practices of their employers.

Follow OSHA Standards including:

  • Provide adequate facilities and grounds to house laborers in a clean and sanitary condition, including living, sleeping quarters, food preparation areas, and toilet facilities. [1910.142] Temporary Labor Camps.

  • Provide handwashing facilities, toilets, potable drinking water, if 11 or more field workers are employed. [1928.110] Field Sanitation.

Additional Information


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