Jennifer Krenz

Project title: Minimizing Pesticide Handler Pesticide Exposure: Practical Solutions Fresh from the Orchard

Degree: MPH | Program: Environmental and Occupational Health (EOH) | Project type: Thesis/Dissertation
Completed in: 2010


Background: The health risk to workers from pesticides used in agriculture is an important public health concern. Previous studies have shown that employees who handle pesticides have a higher risk of exposure and are also more likely to be exposed directly to concentrated pesticides. Handlers include workers who mix concentrated pesticides and load them into spray tanks, pesticide applicators, and individuals who clean spray equipment.

Goal: The goal of this project is to identify and evaluate pesticide safety measures for pesticide handlers that can be considered examples of Practical Solutions. A practical solution is defined as a way that a workplace perfoRMS a task or a mechanical solution that makes the job easier for pesticide handlers and also serves as a safety measure.

Identification: To identify practical solutions, orchard workplaces were recruited through established connections. Visits to workplaces included observations of mixing and loading areas, application equipment, decontamination areas, pesticide storage areas, and personal protective equipment and respirator storage areas. From general observations and conversation with orchard workplace personnel, potential practical solutions were identified. These potential solutions were photographed and at least one manager and one handler at each site were interviewed about each practice. Questions asked were related to practical aspects, costs, transferability to other orchards, health and safety, and the uniqueness of the practice.

Evaluation: Results of observations and interviews were summarized for each potential practical solution and subsets were distributed to orchard managers and pesticide safety educators throughout the Pacific Northwest. They were asked to review the solutions and fill out an accompanying survey for each solution. The evaluation surveys were designed to determine if a practice qualifies as a Practical Solution.

Results: Survey results will be analyzed using principal component analysis, which will generate weighted scores for each potential practical solution. The scores will be used as a representation of expert opinion in the practical aspects and contribution to health and safety of potential solutions.

Information Dissemination: Selected potential practical solutions will be presented at a national meeting of health and safety professionals. The selection will be based on the scores of the solutions. Professionals at the meeting will review the selected solutions and decide which to include in an end product intended for the agricultural community.