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Safety and Health Hazard Observations in Hmong Farming Operations
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    Agricultural workers have a high risk of occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. However, there are very few standardized tools available to assess safety and health in agricultural operations. Additionally, there are a number of groups of agricultural workers, including Hmong refugees and immigrants, for which virtually no information on safety and health conditions is available. This study developed an observation-based methodology for systematically evaluating occupational health and safety hazards in agriculture, and pilot-tested this on several small-scale Hmong farming operations. Each observation assessed of range of safety and health hazards (e.g., musculoskeletal hazards, dust and pollen, noise, and mechanical hazards), as well as on factors such as type of work area, presence of personal protective equipment, and weather conditions. Thirty-six observations were collected on nine farms. The most common hazards observed were bending at the back and lifting <50 pounds. Use of sharp tools without adequate guarding mechanisms, awkward postures, repetitive hand motions, and lifting >50 pounds were also common. The farming activities observed involved almost no power equipment, and no pesticide or chemical handling was observed. The use of personal protective equipment was uncommon. The results of this assessment agreed well with a parallel study of perceived safety and health hazards among Hmong agricultural workers. This study suggests that small-scale Hmong farming operations involve a variety of hazards, and that occupational health interventions may be warranted in this community. The study also demonstrates the utility of standardized assessment tools and mixed-method approaches to hazard evaluation.

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