From WesternFarmerStockMan.com, Staff, 1 Nov 2011.
NIOSH helps UW operate health unit for ag, fish & forestry.
Fatality rates in ag, fishing and forestry are 10 times that of other industries, averaging more than 25 deaths per 100,000 workers each year.
A program aimed at reducing that number in the Pacific Northwest has just been funded for another year, but future federal support for the program appears to be in jeopardy.
Established in 1996, the Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center at the University of Washington is a regional illness and injury prevention research program which has received a $1.45 million award from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
The renewed funding comes as a sign of continued support from NIOSH, but whether the grant will continue in the future is now in limbo.
Continued support for PNASH is contingent upon upcoming federal funding decisions. In the 2012 Presidential budget, the administration proposed to terminate all funding for NIOSH’s Ag, Fishing and Forestry program, the only federal effort focused on safe and healthy working conditions in these industries.
The Senate budget includes some funding for the project, however, largely in response to a strong show of support from the involved industries and safety professionals.
The program was established in 1990 by Congress when evidence showed that ag workers suffered higher rates of work-related injury and illness than other U.S. workers.
PNASH is part of a vital national infrastructure within NIOSH that conducts research, education and prevention projects to address pressing health and safety problems.
PNASH researchers have been working to ensure that technological innovations in agriculture incorporate worker safety considerations. A project led by UW Professor Michael Yost in partnership with researchers at Washington State University will examine the effectiveness of using alternatives to pesticides on dairy farms to reduce worker exposure.
The center staff have worked closely to identify workplace issues specific to immigrant groups. Projects led by UW Assistant Professors Butch deCastro and June Spector will address hazards faced by Hmong and Hispanic farmers in Washington.