Mae Coker

Project title: Health, Safety, and Disaster Preparedness in the Washington State Wine Industry

Degree: MS (Thesis) | Program: Environmental and Occupational Hygiene (EOHY) | Project type: Thesis/Dissertation
Completed in: 2023 | Faculty advisor: Tania M Busch Isaksen


The wine industry in Washington state is a high-hazard industry that exposes workers to a variety of physical, chemical, psychosocial, and natural hazards. However, literature on the impact of these hazards on this worker population is limited. This thesis presents a narrative literature review of hazards, exposures, health effects, and controls that impact the industry’s workers. Findings reveal that winery and vineyard workers experience work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs), accidents, injuries, and fatalities. Workers are exposed to pesticides, heavy metals, noise, hazardous atmospheres, and heat. Administrative and engineering controls are recommended for many of these hazards. There is limited information available on the impact of natural hazards and disasters on wine industry workers, but the industry has been impacted by earthquakes, fires, and heat events in the past. Factors for improving emergency preparedness and industry resilience include stakeholder engagement, written emergency plans, organizational safety culture, resources, and knowledge sharing. Future occupational safety and health (OSH) research in this industry should focus on the interaction of OSH and natural hazards, natural hazard risk perceptions, and production of emergency preparedness materials based on industry needs. This thesis also characterizes wine industry OSH in Washington state using workplace inspection data from the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH). Findings reveal that vineyards had frequent citations related to accident prevention programs (APPs), eye protection, pesticide application records, and safety meetings. Wineries also had frequent citations related to APPs and safety meetings. Wineries had other frequent citations related to medical evaluations and programs for respirators, heat-related illness training that is available in a language that employees understand, portable fire extinguisher testing, emergency washing facilities, confined space programs, and chemical hazard communication programs. These OSH violations highlight critical points for intervention and educational materials for the Washington state wine industry. These critical points also suggest a lack of preparedness for natural hazard events that could result in negative health outcomes for workers.