NIOSH warns of agricultural hazards
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NIOSH warns of agricultural hazards

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  • Journal Article:
    NIOSH update
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    Three hazards, organic dust toxic syndrome (ODTS), confined spaces, and power take offs (PTOs) associated with farm machinery were discussed. ODTS is a little known respiratory illness that occurs following exposure to heavy concentrations of organic dusts contaminated with microorganisms. Because its symptoms, including general weakness, headache, chills, body aches, and cough, are similar to other forms of respiratory illness, it is often misdiagnosed and treated. Other common clinical characteristics of the illness included impaired pulmonary function, increase of white blood cells, and absence of antibodies typically associated with certain allergic lung disease, including farmer's lung with which it is most often confused. The risk of developing this illness can be reduced by being aware of the adverse effects of breathing organic dust when shoveling or moving organic materials such as oats, wood chips, composted leaves, and silage. Other risk reducing measures included: informing one's doctor of recent dust exposure when seeking treatment for respiratory illness, carefully harvesting and storing agricultural products to reduce spoilage, using automated or mechanized equipment to move decayed materials, using source containment, local exhaust ventilation, and wet methods of dust suppression, and using NIOSH approved respirators when exposure to organic dust cannot be avoided. Confined space hazards come in the form of manure pits, silos, vats, wells and digesters in the agricultural industry and present a multitude of risks including oxygen deficiency, flammable atmospheres, toxic gases, solvents, and mechanical, electrical, and hydraulic energy. Farm machinery presents the hazard of entanglement. A recent study reported that at least 346 farm workers aged 16 or older died from entanglement injuries between 1980 and 1989. Almost 10,000 nonfatal entanglement injuries occurred between 1982 and 1986, 864 resulting in amputation, all caused by the use of inadequately guarded machinery and failure to follow proper safety precautions. Incidents of entanglement can be prevented by placing retrofit guards on farm equipment, disengaging the PTO, and turning off the tractor ignition before performing maintenance.

    DHHS publication ; no. (NIOSH) ; 94-121

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