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.
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.
(Raymond J. Samulis, Burlington County Agricultural Agent)
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.
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