Daniel Grinnell

Project title: Overcoming Literacy and Language Barriers to Improve Safety Knowledge of Washington State Dairy Farm Workers

Degree: MS (Thesis) | Program: Occupational & Environmental Exposure Sciences (OEES) | Project type: Thesis/Dissertation
Completed in: 2015 | Faculty advisor: Michael G. Yost


AIMS: The goals of this project were to evaluate the effectiveness of a method for reporting biomonitoring results to Latino dairy farm workers as well as provide an annotated list of workplace health and safety training resources for Washington dairy farms. As shown in previous studies, an increasing number of US dairy farm workers are foreign born, are unable to read or speak English, and have limited formal education. Communicating with this large, diverse, and often transient population of workers is challenging.

METHODS: This report describes the development, implementation, and evaluation of a strategy for conveying the potential health risks associated with pyrethroid pesticide metabolite concentrations in urine samples collected from dairy workers on a farm in Washington State. The communication strategy was developed in collaboration with research staff familiar with the dairy workers and was implemented during individual one on one meetings with study participants. Using visual displays of information, key messages were conveyed regarding personal pyrethroid exposure and health risk which were compared to exposure levels found in Latinos of the general population in Washington state. Post-meeting questionnaires qualitatively assessed workers' knowledge of pyrethroid pesticides, pesticide exposure reductions methods and health risks associated with pyrethroid metabolite concentrations found in urine. Finally, an annotated list of resources addressing common workplace injuries and sources of injuries affecting Washington state dairy workers was created based on a review of 1,851 workers compensation claims provided by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries SHARP program.

KEY FINDINGS: Follow -up questionnaires revealed that workers understood some of the main routes of exposure to pyrethroid pesticides as well as several exposure reduction methods. Diagrams using proportionally sized circles representing participant pyrethroid metabolite urine concentrations and the 95th percentile of pyrethroid metabolite urine concentrations for the Washington Latino population, effectively conveyed personal exposure results and their health implications. From 2009 to 2013, Washington state dairy workers had a higher average injury claim rate (2.61 claims per 100 FTEs) compared to all Washington workers (1.51 per 100 FTEs). The most frequent injuries were sprains, strains, and tears (23.97% of total claims). The most frequent source of injuries were cattle (33.59% of total claims) which caused injury most frequently during an assault by the animal (20.96% of total claims).

CONCLUSION: This risk communication experience indicates that it is possible to adequately convey complex scientific findings in a way that is useful and accessible to those without English language proficiency or much formal education. Careful evaluation of different approaches to risk communication can be effective in identifying communication strategies that produce the greatest comprehension of information and produce health-promoting action by workers. Finally, dairy farm workplace health and safety training efforts should focus on safety hazards created by animals (cattle) in order to prevent injuries such as sprains, strains, and tears as well as bruises and contusions most frequently suffered by dairy workers from 2009 to 2013.