pnash reasearch

Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center projects are multidisciplinary and respond to a variety of needs, from health care and monitoring to safety engineering and training.

Projects are competitively reviewed and funded. Topics we propose:

  • Address hazards that are the most serious, affect the greatest number of workers, and where that research will make a difference.
  • Meet the needs of Northwest employers, workers, and service providers. We have established a process that engages constituencies from agricultural, health, and safety to help us establish research priorities.

PNASH Research Priorities

View a downloadable pdf of our current active projects or sort research priorities by status, type, or topic area (below).

Searchable Database

Pilot: Reducing Occupational Health and Safety Risks Among Young Workers in Agriculture through Clinician Engagement

(PNASH Pilot Project 2011-2013) Occupational hazards of adolescent farm workers is a topic many argue is critical, but for which there have been few directed activities in the research and healthcare community. This project tailored the RCAT survey instrument to develop a tool for clinicians to assess and reduce the risks of their adolescent agricultural patients.

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Pilot: Occupational Safety and Health of Forest Workers

(PNASH Pilot Project 2010-2011) The forest service workforce, a predominately Spanish-speaking and immigrant population, faces language barriers, isolated working environments, and dangerous working conditions placing them at risk for injury and illness. This project explored the occupational safety and health concerns of a Latino workforce to inform a promotora program for education and prevention.

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Pilot: Oregon Crab Fisherman Safety and Personal Flotation Device Survey

(PNASH PIlot Project 2010-2011) The Oregon Crab Fishing Safety Assessment evaluated the effectiveness of current US Coast Guard and Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission safety initiatives and safety training programs, and field-tested five different PFDs; focusing on PFD attitudes, worker attitudes, and perceived risks. The results of this study provide feedback for policymakers and the industry considering additional safety measures, and contribute, with a local perspective, to future prevention-focused safety efforts in Oregon.

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Parkinsonism among Washington State Agricultural Pesticide Handlers

(PNASH Pilot Project 2013-2014) Previous human and animal studies suggest that some pesticides, including those typically applied by agricultural pesticide handlers, may increase the risk of parkinsonism (PS). This study assessed the feasibility of conducting neurological exams on active pesticide handlers, to determine the prevalence PS symptoms.

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Pilot: Study of Risk Factors for Heat-Related Illness in Agricultural Workers

(NIOSH 2011-2013) This Pilot, funded by NIOSH, seeks to characterize the burden of heat-related illness in Washington State agriculture, potential risk factors for heat-related illness, and methods for quantifying the physiological effects of heat exposures on agricultural workers.

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Pilot: Nitrate Well Water Testing in Agricultural Communities: Improving Environmental Health Communication with Health Behavior Theory

Principal Investigator: Elena Austin, DSc, MS

Research Scientist and Project Manager, Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center

University of Washington


PNASH Pilot Program 2018 – Present

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Pilot: Evalution of Wearable-based Activity Recognition Modeling Applications for Logging Safety

(PNASH Pilot 2018-2019) This pilot project will develop an innovative, GNSS watch-based activity recognition model for rigging crew workers on cable logging operations that will increase situational awareness by sharing real-time activity status among workers and generating alerts associated with possible job site accidents.

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Pilot: Development of a Work Stress Survey for Farmworkers

(PNASH Pilot Project 2011-2012) Many factors impact the health of agricultural workers, including workplace hazards, exposure to chemicals, limited resources, and limited access to medical care. This purpose of this project is to assess workplace stress in agricultural workers to understand the role of occupational stress has on their health and well-being.

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Pilot Application of Cholinesterase Monitoring of Pesticide Applicators in Washington State

(NIOSH/CDC, 1996-2001) This study evaluated the accuracy of cholinesterase determinations performed on the EQM Testmate Kit??? in field conditions as compared to those conducted in a laboratory. It also examined whether a field-based kit provides advantages in promptness of worker removal. Seventy-five orchard workers with regular exposure to Guthion, Diazinon, and several other organophosphate and N-methyl carbamate pesticides had samples of their blood and urine taken during the growing season. Samples were also obtained from five unexposed workers.

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Pilot Project: Validation of Sampling and Analytic Techniques for Fungi and Bacteria in Agricultural Organic Dust Exposure

(NIOSH/CDC, 1997-2000) The main goal of this project was to develop a validated questionnaire for the detection of asthma in community-based studies of Spanish-speaking Mexican populations in Washington State. A secondary goal was to collect pilot prevalence data on asthma in the Yakima Valley Hispanic population. Asthma, now recognized as one of the most common occupational lung diseases, is associated with many differing agricultural exposures. The Spanish-speaking migrant and seasonal farm worker population represents a large percentage of Region X and the U.S.

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Pilot Project: Farm Families and the Employment, Training, and Supervision of Children

(PNASH Pilot, 1998-1999) This project furthered agricultural health and safety research on children by looking at parents’ attitudes towards farm safety and children’s labor. It considered how these attitudes and characteristics of farm operation affect the use of children’s labor as well as the quality of safety-related training and supervision received by children. Data were collected through interviews with twenty-five farm families in two counties in eastern Washington.

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Pilot Project: Methods for Accessing Pesticide/Nitrate Environmental Exposure Databases

(PNASH Pilot, 1998-1999) Agricultural use of pesticides and fertilizers has grown dramatically in the last several years. Contamination of the hydrologic system by these chemicals is an increasing concern and much effort has been made to build databases containing measurements of these chemicals in drinking water sources. These geographically-referenced data (accessible by latitude/longitude coordinates of the target residence or facility) have yet to be used in epidemiologic studies of health outcomes.

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Pilot Project: Farm Exposures to Deposited Arsenic and Lead on Vashon Island

(PNASH Pilot 1999-2000) Vashon Island, Washington, is situated north of the former ASARCO smelter in Ruston/Tacoma. Prevailing winds carried arsenic and lead from the smelter to the Island. Surface soils are contaminated at levels well above background for both elements. Persons living on the island are subject to potentially elevated exposures to arsenic and lead. Persons at highest risk of exposure are likely to be those who have relatively intimate contact with soil. Those who eat locally grown crops are also at risk.

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Validation of an Asthma Questionnaire in Spanish

(PNASH Pilot, 1995-2000) Researchers characterized the relationships between various bioaerosol-related assays during composting operations using agricultural wastes. The assays included were standard microbiological assays (high and low temperature incubation for fungi and bacteria) on samples taken on filter cassettes, 1-3 b d glucan, possibly 1-6 b d glucan, and an extracellular polysacharride (EPS) specifically associated with aspergillus and penicillium species.

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Pilot Project: Human Exposure to OP Pesticides: The Role of Oxidative Stress

(PNASH Pilot 2000-2001) Compelling evidence from whole-animal and tissue culture studies indicate that pesticides, especially organophosphate pesticides (OP), induce oxidative stress. While the cholinergic properties of OPs are well-established, our understanding of their oxidative stress properties (especially on humans) is limited.

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Pilot Project: Agricultural Work and Injuries in Teenagers

(NIOSH/CDC, 1999-2000) Direct assessment of the proportion of teenagers working in agriculture and the percent injured is sparsely reported in the literature and has not been performed in the Northwest United States. This project estimated the proportion of teenage children who work for pay in agriculturally related jobs in a rural town in Washington's Yakima Valley.

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Pilot Project: Literacy and Safety

(PNASH Pilot, 2000-2001) Eastern Washington University Center for Farm Health and Safety researcher Mark Landa’s studied the links between literacy and safety among Hispanic farm workers. He measured the comprehensibility of graphics such as signs and symbols and text such as paragraphs and labels. His work indicates that less than half of the pesticide safety materials used in his study were understood by the subjects. The more text there was, the harder it was to understand. Education and literacy were only part of the capacity to learn.

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Pilot Project: Older Farmers: Factors Influencing Their Retirement Decisions

(NIOSH/CDC, 2000-2001) Agriculture has been recognized as one of the most hazardous occupations in the United States. In an industry where a quarter of all farm operators are 65 years of age or older, age becomes a serious factor when considering potential risk for injuries. This project explored reasons influencing the retirement decisions of farmers within five counties in Eastern Washington. The research project investigated reasons why leaving farm, not participating in farm work, and transitioning farm ownership to others is so difficult for elder farmers.

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Pilot Project: Finding Common Ground: Developing, Testing, and Evaluating a Narrative Based Model for Presenting Safety Information in Two Socially Diverse Farm Communities

(PNASH Pilot, 2001-2004) This project was conducted through the EWU Center for Farm Safety and Health, which has compared formal and informal (through story telling) communication models used to promote safety. The two models have been tested with intergenerational family farmers and non-intergenerational farmers. This project identified the variables and allowed us to test the efficacy of incorporating informal discourse into formalized, farm safety intervention strategies.

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Pilot Project: Developing, Testing an Objective Tool for Measuring Postural and Vibrational Exposures During Forestry and Agricultural Work

(PNASH Pilot, 2001-2005) Forty-two noise exposures and 164 whole-body (WBV) and hand-arm (HAV) vibration exposures were collected from 43 forestry workers in six trades employed by two forestry companies. Data were collected on 10 days over 8 weeks during a various felling, logging, and log handling operations.

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Pilot: Evaluation of the WPS Train-the-Trainer Program

(PNASH Pilot Project 2002-2003) PNASH was invited by the EPA and the Council of Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) to evaluate a Worker Protection Standard train-the-trainer model curriculum; to determine its feasibility for use throughout the country; to ensure that master trainers obtain the necessary skills, tools, and knowledge to train others; and to impart knowledge to trainers. PNASH developed the instruments used to evaluate the trainers, including those with low literacy.

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Pilot: Point-of-View Video Analysis of the Impact of a Faller Safety Training Program

(NIOSH 2006-2009) Oregon Health and Sciences University researchers conducted a video observation study of loggers at work, concentrating on fallers, using video equipment attached to a hard hat for a first-person point of view. This is a promising technique for research and training.

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Pilot: Safety and Health of Immigrant Cedar Block Harvesters on the Olympic Peninsula

(NIOSH 2007-2009) Latino immigrant workers are increasingly finding employment as laborers in Pacific Northwest forests. This project provided a baseline understanding of the hazards faced by salvage cedar block cutters and the barriers they may face in addressing these occupational health and safety hazards. Employing community based participatory research methods, 13 key informant interviews were conducted with forest and community workers. The findings of this project, in brief, include:

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Pilot: Characterization of Bioaerosols in Washington Dairy Barns

(NIOSH 2007-2008) Dairy workers in concentrated animal feeding operations may be at risk for respiratory illness from bioaerosols. This exploratory project in partnership with Washington State University quantified both organism and endotoxin levels and correlated them with environmental factors. A sampling methodology for organism dense environments was developed and described.

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Pilot Project: Investigation of the Apparent Discrepancy Between Observed Cholinesterase Depression among Pesticide Handlers in Washington and Regulatory Estimates of Exposure

(NIOSH 2008-2010) This small project predicted expected ChE depression based on regulatory decision-making frameworks and compares those predictions with actual outcomes in Washington State’s ChE monitoring program. Scientists at PNASH and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are working to improve the current ChE laboratory test – increasing accuracy to ensure a ChE depression is due to pesticide exposure and identify the specific pesticide involved.

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Pilot Project: Skills Retention in Commercial Fishing Training

(NIOSH 2008-2009) Conducted by the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association, this project informed federal policy on how often refresher training is need for survival equipment and emergency drill conductors. This project is a good example of research helping policy makers in decision-making. The results of this study are important to commercial fishing vessel safety trainers as well. A further direction for research would be to find out what an optimum interval of refresher training would be by providing periodic refresher training of skills and measuring retention rates.

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Pilot: Risk Factors for Heat-Related Illness in Among Oregon Farmworkers

(PNASH Pilot Program 2012-2013) Farmworkers are at an increased risk for heat-related illness given their work requires heavy exertion in an outdoor setting. This study explored the personal, cultural, environmental, and work-related risk factors for heat-related illness for Latino farmworkers in Oregon.

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Pilot: GRAS2P Food Safety Video

(PNASH Pilot Project 2013-2015) This video project will integrate current pesticide safety standards into the video, Fieldworker Orientation and Food Safety/Orientation/Orientation para el Trabajador Agricola y Seguridad Alimenticia. The video is bilingual and will be used by growers and workers in Washington and across the United States to ensure effective food safety practices.

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