NIOSH awards $1.45 million to UW research center dedicated to farming, fishing and forestry safety and health, future funding still in limbo

Fatality rates in agriculture, fishing, and forestry are nearly 10 times that of other industries, averaging more than 25 deaths per 100,000 workers each year. Established in 1996, the Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health (PNASH) Center in the School of Public Health at the University of Washington is a regional illness and injury prevention research program. PNASH works in partnership with fishing, farming, and forestry employers and workers to reduce occupational injury and illness and thereby support sustainable industries. In recognition of their significant research and activities, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health renewed funding to the center for an additional five years, beginning with a $1.45 million award for the upcoming year.

PNASH is part of a vital national infrastructure within the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)'s Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing (AFF) Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that conducts research, education, and prevention projects to address the nation's pressing health and safety problems in jobs The AFF Program is the only federal effort focused on safe and healthy working conditions in these industries.

Continued support for PNASH is contingent on upcoming federal funding decisions. In the 2012 Presidential budget, the administration proposed to terminate all funding for NIOSH's AgFF Program. The Senate's budget includes some funding for NIOSH's AgFF program, largely in response to a strong show of support from farming, fishing and forestry industries and safety professionals. The program was established by Congress in 1990 when evidence showed that agricultural workers were suffering higher rates of work-related injury and illness than other U.S. workers.

Researchers have been working to ensure that technological innovations in agriculture incorporate worker safety considerations. For example, a project led by UW Professor Michael Yost in partnership with researchers at Washington State University will examine the effectiveness of using alternatives to pesticides on dairy farms to reduce worker exposure. Also, center staff have worked closely to identify workplace issues specific to immigrant groups. Projects led by UW Assistant Professors Butch deCastro and June Spector will address hazards faced by Hmong and Hispanic farmers in Washington state.