Farm Safety

Picture of a farm.New Jersey agriculture is distinguished by a large number of fruit, vegetable, greenhouse, and nursery farms operated by family farmers with the assistance of a significant migrant and minority labor force. A study conducted in 1992 by Rutgers University, for the U. S. Farmers Home Administration, reveals that during peak labor demand, the number of agricultural workers employed on 5,943 New Jersey commercial farms exceeds forty thousand (40,604). Among them, approximately 16,500, or 40%, are migrant workers, with the remaining 60% comprised of day haul, seasonal workers from the local area, and full or part- time labor. The state is also characterized by a significant agricultural service industry, including ornamentals, turf, and landscape maintenance. Many traditional farms in the state produce corn, soybeans, and others field crops (over 10% of total agricultural sales). Horses account for another 14% of the agricultural cash receipts. A sizable and diverse fishing and marine service industry contributes over 9% to the state agriculture.

Agriculture ranks among the most hazardous industries. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) provides that farmers are at high risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries, work-related lung diseases, noise-induced hearing loss, skin diseases, and certain cancers associated with chemical use and prolonged sun exposure. Further, farmers are subject to the stresses of financial uncertainty and losses, intensified time pressure, natural disasters such as drought, intergenerational conflicts, and health and safety concerns. Farming is one of the few industries in which the families (who often share the work and live on the premises) are also at risk for injuries, illness, and death.

Additionally, the diversity of the New Jersey agricultural industry leads to unique occupational safety and health problems. These include musculoskeletal injuries sustained through overexertion and poor job and task ergonomics, accidents during moving farm equipment on heavy traveled highways, as well as exposure from applying chemicals (including routine use of fertilizers and pesticides) in small confined fields and environments.

Awareness of farm hazards and minimizing associated risks is key to reducing injuries in the agricultural industry of New Jersey. In our state, the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station Rutgers Cooperative Extension (RCE) serves the farm community with outreach training, publications and media, and web resources in safety and worker protection.  Some of these are provided in English as well as Spanish since English is a second language for such a high percentage of New Jersey's agricultural workers.

Training

  • New Jersey Pesticide Applicator Recertification Training Courses: Available courses for recertification credit in New Jersey. Private Pesticide Applicators must accumulate 8 Core credits and 16 'PP2' credits within five years of certification. See this site for New Jersey licensing requirements.
  • New Jersey Pesticide Applicator Core Training (English & Spanish). Required for Commercial Applicators; not required by law for Private applicator licensing in New Jersey; but, can be used as a refresher.
  • Worker Protection Standard (WPS) training for workers for grower, nursery, and greenhouse operations in New Jersey must be completed every five years with an annual refresher. See the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) Pesticide Control Program 'Worker Protection Standard' page link for a description of New Jersey's WPS Program. NJDEP's webpage includes the NJDEP Pesticide Control subchapter 12 regulations for WPS in the State. Growers should be in compliance with subchapters 8, 9, 10, and 12 of the Pesticide Control Program regulations.

IMPORTANT: The NJDEP conducts periodic inspections for compliance with the WPS. The NJDEP WPS Inspection Checklist provides the key elements that inspectors check for compliance. You may contact NJDEP's Nancy Santiago at 609-984-6914, your County Extension Agent, or the the Rutgers Cooperative Research and Extension Pest Management Office at 732-932-9802 for assistance.

Publications and Media

Rutgers Cooperative Extension Fact Sheets

Rutgers Cooperative Extension Farm Safety Newsletters

(Raymond J. Samulis, Burlington County Agricultural Agent)

  • June 2003: Electrical Safety on the Farm; Is Your Farm Shop Safe?; Pesticide Reminders; Worker Protection Standard Inspections
  • 2003: Chain Saw Safety; The Farmer's Lungs; Agricultural Dusts; Wearing the Correct Pesticide Respirator
  • December 2002: Child Safety on the farm; Fire Safety Notes for the Farm; Autumn on the Farm; Winter Farm Safety
  • October 2002: The Evolving farm Family; Farm Fire Prevention Tips; First Aid 101
  • June 2002: Farm Noise; Skin Cancer
  • September 2002: Tractor Accidents Can Be Prevented; Farmers Are Stressed, Too!; Back Pain; Hand Pain: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
  • Picture of a videotape.Safe Horse Farm Operation This video is 15 min in length. The purpose is to alert horse farm owners and operators of proper horse farm safety procedures. The video details emergency tips and first aid, safety around the outside of the barn, proper feed storage and fencing. Inside the barn, safety procedures regarding tack rooms, wash stalls, the barn isle, inside stalls, and fire safety are detailed. Finally the video ends with tips for working with tractors and heavy machinery. If followed these safety procedures will reduce the incidence of accidents as well as reduce the cost of insurance premiums. Remember, a successful horse farm operation begins with safety! To purchase this video, contact Roberta Salinger (salinger@njaes.rutgers.edu or 732-932-9514).
  • An American Farm TaleVideo and Facilitator's Guide: Chronic Organophosphate Exposure - The Rea Farm Case Study. The video itself is 20 minutes in length. Key topics covered include: persons at risk for pesticide exposure, routes of pesticide exposure, signs and symptoms of pesticide poisoning, safety precautions before and after pesticide application, safe handling and use of personal safety equipment, labels and Material Safety Data Sheets, safe application of pesticides, safe pesticide storage and transport, and talking with your doctor about pesticides.

This would be suitable material for a CORE training segment for NJDEP approved trainers (see guide). The Facilitator's Guide to "An American Farm Tale. Chronic Organophosphate Exposure and Treatment: The Rea Farm Case Study" is designed to reinforce and enhance concepts introduced in the companion video, through facilitator-guided discussion. The Facilitator Guide was created to provide you with background information about the Reas, pesticide poisoning, methods of preventing pesticide poisoning, information farmers should tell their doctors about the pesticides they use, and resources for more information.

Other Sources of Publications:

Web Resources

Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) Cooperative Extension Webpages

  • Cooperative Extension Home Page: One stop shopping for Extension information in the Garden State! See specifically the 'Commercial Agriculture' webpage for access to a host of NJAES resources including Animal Agriculture, Farm Management and Safety, Pest Management, and Plant Agriculture.
  • pest management office logo.Provides extensive Pesticide Applicator Training information for the Garden State. See the list of available New Jersey Pesticide Applicator Training manuals (that include pesticide safety tips). Pesticide-related Publications page includes pre-release of the 'Respiratory Protection for Pesticides' chapter for the upcoming national manual; See also the 'Don't Get Caught Exposing Yourself to Pesticides: Personal Protective Equipment Selection' downloadable lecture resources. Features a color-coded version of the hard to find 'EPA Chemical Resistance Table'.

Other Web Sites

  • Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry released ATSDR ToxFAQsT and ToxFAQsT en Español 2003 CD-ROM. Outstanding resource with 180 chemical-specific fact sheets in English and Spanish. To order a free copy of the CD-ROM, contact the ATSDR Information Center toll-free at 1-888-42-ATSDR (1-888-422-8737) or e-mail requests to atsdric@cdc.gov. The ToxFAQsT also are accessible on the ATSDR Web site at www.atsdr.cdc.gov. Llame al 1-888-422-8737 ó envíe correo electrónico a atsdric@cdc.gov para recibir una copia gratis.
  • EPA Worker Protection Standard (WPS) original text as well as amendments through October 1997; the 'Interpretative Policy' is very enlightening and useful for thornier WPS issues.  See also Agriculture Topics: Pesticides; one of the most comprehensive webpages EPA has designed on a wide variety of pesticide safety and compliance issues.
  • Medline Plus Health Information on 'Latest News on Pesticides' issues from the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Includes prevention, screening, research, as well as information on specific conditions.
  • National AgraAbility Projectcreated to assist people with disabilities employed in agriculture. Features an online searchable database for assistive technology products for the disabled farmer.
  • National Ag Safety Database. Titles in (English) (Spanish). Searchable by topic or state. See comprehensive listing of titles on Farm Children.
  • National Children's Center for Rural & Agricultural Health & Safety 'North American Guidelines for Children's Agricultural Tasks'. Guidelines are formatted in easy to use color posters.
  • National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) Agricultural Centers; website under development. Traumatic Occupational Injury Agricultural Safety is the best place to locate agricultural NIOSH reports and Alerts online.
  • National Library of Medicine's 'Tox Town- Farm' webpage for an animated and audio guide (rated 10 rooster calls by our website...!!!!!!) to farm safety hazards.
  • National Safety Council Agricultural Safety includes a series of 'The Plain Facts...' with eye-opening statistics.
  • New Jersey Department of Health & Senior Services 'Right-to-Know Hazardous Substance Fact Sheets' (English) (Spanish). Great resource for chemical safety. Easy-to-use fact sheets each include Hazard Summary, Identification, Reason for Citation, How To Determine If You are Being Exposed, Workplace Exposure Limits, and Ways of Reducing Exposure.
  • New York Access to Health 'Environmental Health/Pesticides' Topics & Resource links. Non-technical resources searchable in (English) (Spanish).
  • NIOSH Hearing Loss Prevention. Hearing Conservation Checklist and Hearing Protector Selection applicable to minimizing short term and permanent hearing loss in general industry as well as agriculture.
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Agricultural Operations Safety & Health Topics. Comprehensive listing of resources/articles/reports in recognition, evaluation, and control of hazards in agricultural operations, many by OSHA/NIOSH. See online publication order page for free heat and cold stress pocket cards! See also general health and safety topics in Spanish.
  • University of Florida's Agsafe Network. Features links to all Extension Ag Safety websites.
  • University of Minnesota Ag Safety & Health Information Clearinghouse. Very good source of a wide variety of farm safety videos & tapes.
  • USDA CSREES Farm Safety website. See the 'Resources' pages for some good statistics on farming and safety related issues. See the FactSheet on pointers for cinematographers and photographers of farm life, which outlines safe practices that should be part of the scene shot.

For more information contact:

Rutgers Cooperative Extension Pest Management Office:

Your County Rutgers Cooperative Extension Agricultural & Resource Management Agent


  1. Rutgers
  2. Executive Dean of Agriculture and Natural Resources
  3. School of Environmental and Biological Sciences