270183 Characterization of hazardous working conditions for female farmworkers of childbearing age

Monday, October 29, 2012 : 3:30 PM - 3:50 PM

Antonio Tovar, MA , Farmworker Association of Florida, Apopka, FL
Eugenia Economos , Farmworker Association of Florida, Apopka, FL
Ana Luisa Trevino, Organizer , Apopka Area Office, Farmworker Association of Florida and former farmworkers, Apopka, FL
Melinda Higgins, PhD , School of Nursing, Emory University, Atlanta, GA
Valerie Mac, BSN, RN , Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, Emory University, Atlanta, GA
Joan Flocks, JD , College of Law, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
Linda A. McCauley, PhD , School of Nursing, Emory University, Atlanta, GA
Background: Few studies have assessed the safety of agricultural work-related tasks among female farmworkers of childbearing age. Potential occupational safety risks involve persistent pesticide exposure, repetitive motion or heavy lifting, prolonged standing, heat stress, and musculoskeletal strain. Objective: Examine differences in work-related practices, workplace hygiene, and health symptoms among female farmworkers for two separate agricultural settings in Central Florida.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted on 260 female farmworkers between the ages of 19-40 working in fernery or nursery operations. Descriptive statistics were used to characterize the work environment and work practices of this vulnerable understudied population.

Results: Female farmworkers commonly reported strenuous work activities, including frequent bending, lifting, and standing. Women in both settings frequently reported fatigue, heat exhaustion, and muscle cramps while working. Fernery workers reported diminished access to facilities promoting workplace hygiene, including hand washing and lavatory amenities. The majority of all female agricultural workers reported working during their last pregnancy; on average 40-50% of women reported having worked their entire pregnancy. Working in the heat/sun was more prevalent among fernery workers (95.8%) compared to nursery workers (40.5%) (Pearson chi-square test p<.001).

Conclusions: Our findings revealed adverse working conditions for these female farmworkers of childbearing age, implicating the potential for adverse pregnancy health outcomes during times in which these women may be pregnant. To our knowledge, this is the first study to report on the hazardous working conditions to which pregnant women in agriculture may be exposed.

Learning Areas:
Environmental health sciences
Occupational health and safety

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe the workplace environment and work-related practices for female farmworkers of child bearing age.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am research assistant in the CBPR project between the Farmworker Association of Florida and Emory University, coordinating implementation and data collection. I also have been the Project Director of the Partnership for Citrus Workers Health (a CBPR project between the Florida Prevention Research Center and the FWAF) for the last three years. I am a PhD candidate in Medical Anthropology for University of Florida working exclusively on farmworking condition in Florida.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.