Supervisors and workers in sectors such as manufacturing, mining, sanitation work, and those who come in direct contact with labeled hazardous materials generally understand the need for heightened health and safety protections. The use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and disposable protective clothing does not fly under the radar. This may not necessarily be the case in seemingly toxin-free occupations such as those in agriculture or farming.
It may sound counterintuitive but using PPE for farming and agriculture jobs routinely prevents significant illness and even fatalities. Those dangers are largely due to contact with animal-acquired infections, chemicals used in conjunction with crops, and respiratory-related risks. That’s why agriculture PPE in farming or agricultural work should never be considered optional.
Dangers of Animal-Acquired Infections in Agriculture
As the global population increases from approximately 7.7 billion in 2020 to a potential 9.2 billion by 2030, the livestock demand is expected to increase substantially. This growing dilemma tasks the farm sector with increased production and management.
Newcomers to the industry may not understand the serious need to wear PPE for farming and agriculture. But farm workers will continue to be in close proximity to more animals on a daily basis, and some carry diseases. Although the COVID-19 pandemic was not necessarily traced back to the farming community, the virus can reportedly jump from animals to humans. This being said, a wide range of other ailments can jump from livestock to farm workers. These include the following.
- Avian Flu: This virus remains common in the poultry industry and easily migrates from infected birds to human beings. The influenza-type virus typically spreads from the bird’s nasal secretions, excrement, or saliva. Farm workers often inhale dried particles that become airborne.
- Anthrax: Although rare in North America, this naturally occurring bacteria can infect livestock. Animals typically get the disease after eating tainted spores. Should a farmworker come in direct contact with a diseased animal, it could prove fatal.
- Brucellosis: When cows and other dairy-producing animals fall ill, their milk can become contaminated. If the unhealthy milk gets on a worker’s body and into their mouth or other mucous membranes, illness can follow.
- Campylobacter: Animal waste sometimes used for fertilizer can be infectious. Shoveling manure when cleaning animal stalls and other sanitization efforts can result in a farmhand falling ill. This disease also spreads in fairgrounds, zoos, and other habitats.
- Hantaviruses: Farm employees too often get this ailment from coming into contact with infected rat and mouse droppings. It causes a fever, chills and can turn into a life-threatening condition if not treated promptly. Many agricultural workers become infected during routine farm building clean-ups.
- Orf Virus: This virus typically impacts sheep and goats. It can spread to humans, and the telltale signs of infection include mouth scabs, soreness, and contagious ecthyma. Many agricultural workers get infected when the virus passes through cuts and abrasions in the skin. It can also lay dormant and transfer from hard surfaces and farm equipment. Activities such as sheering sheep and tube-feeding goats put people at heightened risk.
- Leptospirosis: This bacterial disease generally spreads when livestock urinate on floors or soil, and humans track it on their footwear. Cows, pigs, and horses rank among the more prevalent animals to spread leptospirosis. The contagion can remain active on floors, in animal bedding, and on the ground for months. Human symptoms may include fever, chills, vomiting, jaundice, and severe abdominal pain, among others.
- Staphylococcus: This common bacteria resides on the skin of animals and can be contracted by direct contact. A strain known as MRSA has become highly resistant to antibiotics and poses a substantial risk to people in the agricultural sector. It causes a wide range of infections, including pneumonia.
- Q Fever:Typically caused by breathing dust containing Coxiella burnetii bacteria, this contagion is not uncommon in cattle, sheep, and goats, among others. Humans do not necessarily have come in direct contact with an impacted animal. The bacteria can mingle with barnyard materials and rub off on workers. Simple hand-to-mouth or hand-to-eye contact can result in a farmer worker contracting the disease.
- Ringworm: This infection routinely impacts cows, pigs, sheep, and even farm pets. Creatures become infected after coming in contact with a fungus. Ringworm can then spread from animals to humans through touch.
- Salmonella: This bacteria has been closely associated with poultry. It also impacts horses, sheep, and pigs, among others. When workers get it on the hands and touch their mouths or food, they fall sick. Salmonella can also be transferred from hands to hard surfaces and remain active.
The wide range of health risks to hard-working people in the agricultural sector cannot be ignored. These common health threats are but a cross-section of the known and emerging diseases that surround farm workers.
The people who produce the necessary sustenance for our communities do so while in harm’s way. That’s why it’s critical they have access to high-quality PPE for farming and agriculture. Given how animal-acquired infections easily transfer to humans, agriculture PPE in farming must include the following items.
- Coveralls with Secure Wrists, Ankles, and Necklines
- Googles, Face Shields & Other Eye Protection
- One-Piece Disposable Clothing with a Hood
- Disposable Protective Gloves and Footwear Coverings
- Disposable Face Masks
It’s essential that the agriculture PPE in farming stockpiles remain primarily disposable. Many of the animal-to-human contagions linger on hard surfaces. That fact means that the process of housing and washing protective clothing expands the threat radius to peripheral employees. And while infectious diseases pose a potentially fatal health risk, the industry's chemicals can also prove lethal. Disposable protective clothing helps decrease the spread of bioburdens, harsh chemicals, and other biohazards that can spread to others throughout laundering or the transport to a laundering facility.
What Chemical Hazards Do Farm Workers Face?
It might seem that using pesticides and fertilizers are counterproductive to a healthy food supply chain. But the fact remains that farming attracts vermin such as rats and mice and crop-eating insects. Farmers often balance the use of chemical agents against the potential loss of produce and diseases impacting livestock. While this method is effective in the mass production of food, fertilizers and pesticides pose serious health risks especially with long term exposure.
That’s why the EPA instituted the Worker Protection Standard (WPS). The WPS guidelines provide definition about qualifying and handling pesticides and chemical fertilizers. EPA mandates include the following.
- Personnel who apply pesticides must undergo training
- An EPA training course must be completed by anyone handling pesticides
- A pesticide applicator must be certified and licensed
The EPA reportedly requires retraining every 12 months to handle or apply pesticides. Farm personnel typically apply pesticides after waiting for reasonable weather conditions. Dry days with only the slightest breeze allow agricultural workers to dilute chemicals with water and spray them directly on plants. This process places the employee in almost direct contact with the agents.
Large farms may enlist the help of crop dusters to fly over on dry, windless days and blanket fields with insect deterrents. This may not necessarily place boots-on-the-ground workers in close proximity. However, harsh chemicals linger on plant leaves, stalks, and the vegetables that are later harvested.
PPE For Farming And Agriculture Pesticide Contact
In too many cases, field workers and seasonal harvesting teams enter fields with common street clothing. This labor-intensive work tends to prompt people to shed layers and results in skin contact with chemical agents. When workers wipe their brows or touch their mouths, a transfer sometimes occurs. It’s also not uncommon for these agents to seep through pores or infiltrate cuts and abrasions. Given the rigorous type of work farm hands undertake, the following PPE would be advisable.
- Lightweight, Breathable Outer Wear
- Flexible Gloves and Footwear Coverings
- PPE that Resists Chemical Seepage
- Breathable Face Masks & Eye Protection
One of the tried-and-true methods supervisors employ is to select a disposable clothing line that can be easily accessorized. This strategy allows farms to stockpile protective wear that can be tailored to specific uses and conditions. Decision-makers also target early morning and late-day hours when the temperature remains cool to make wearing PPE more comfortable.
What Respiratory Hazards Do Farm Workers Need to Worry About?
Agricultural workers remain at risk at most locations on a farm. Dry conditions can push pesticides into the air, and naturally occurring airborne contaminants often go undetected. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, these include airborne materials in the following spaces.
- Manure Pits
- Machinery Storage
The respiratory threats can be laced in dust particles and include microorganisms as well as harsh chemicals. Once they are breathed in, irreparable harm can be done to the lungs. Such health risks would seem to indicate that breathable masks and protective eyewear would suffice on the surface. But these agents also land on clothing and can be breathed in when a worker wipes their brow or scratches their face. Respiratory threats such as viruses require only nominal infiltration to impact a person’s lungs. That’s why appropriate disposable PPE remains a necessary aspect of daily life in the agricultural sector.
Select Trusted PPE For Farming and Agriculture Worker Safety
By understanding the health and safety risks present on farms, decision-makers can take proactive measures to protect hard-working employees. Farming businesses may find that stockpiling disposable personal protective clothing helps reduce insurance premiums. While that makes selecting PPE more cost-effective, keeping everyday people healthy and safe also proves invaluable.
International Enviroguard produces a complete line of disposable protective clothing that safeguards agricultural and farmworkers from harsh chemicals, highly infectious diseases, blood, bloodborne pathogens, bodily fluids, fine particles / dusts, and more.
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