Farmers focus of skin cancer, heat stress awareness campaign

Farmers and other outdoor workers face hot and humid conditions in the summer, but they can take steps to prevent sun burns and heat stress. Iowa’s Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (I-CASH) and the Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health (GPCAH) have launched a seasonal awareness campaign on skin cancer and heat stress. The campaign includes a poster and radio spots to help spread the word.

Skin Cancer Prevention


Preventing Heat Stress


skin cancer prevention infographic

Save the date: Agricultural Medicine course is June 8-12

The Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health will host Agricultural Medicine: Occupational and Environmental Health for Rural Health Professionals, June 8-12, 2015, at the University of Iowa. The course is designed to provide the information and skills needed to enable safety and health professionals to anticipate, recognize, and prevent occupational illnesses and injuries among members of the agricultural community.

There will also be an open house to meet leaders in rural and agricultural health on Monday, June 8, from 4-6 p.m. at the College of Public Health.

The course is appropriate for safety and health managers, physicians, nurses, veterinarians, graduate students, and anyone interested in the unique safety and health needs of rural and agricultural communities. The course includes classroom instruction, farm tours, safety and rescue demonstrations, and a networking reception. Topics to be discussed include agricultural injury, pesticide exposures and associated health effects, occupational diseases of the lungs in agricultural settings, livestock production, transportation hazards, behavioral and emotional health, zoonotic disease, ergonomics, cancer among agricultural workers, and many others. Continuing education and academic credits are available.

The Iowa Department of Public Health – State Office of Rural Health is providing scholarships to pay the registration fees for two Iowa health care providers to attend the training.

A course brochure and scholarship application are available at

Online registration is available at

For more information, contact Kay Mohling at 319-335-4219 or

New report examines agriculture-related fatalities in Midwest

logo fo Great Plains Center for Agricultural HealthA new report by UI College of Public Health investigators sheds light on the more than 200 agriculture-related deaths per year that occur in Midwestern states, confirming that farming remains one of the nation’s most dangerous industries and poses particular risks to vulnerable populations such as elderly workers.

The goal of the report, sponsored by the UI Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health, is to facilitate access to agricultural fatality information for anyone interested in agricultural safety and health. The full report and an accompanying slide show are available at:

Researchers Amanda Swanton, Tracy Young, Corinne Peek-Asa, Marizen Ramirez, and Fred Gerr studied 1,858 agriculture-related deaths that occurred between 2005 and 2012 in 12 Midwestern states, including Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

“Numerous hazards threaten farm workers including exposure to machinery, livestock, chemicals, noise, and physical stress, which can be compounded by the fact that agricultural activities are often performed in rural environments with limited access to medical services,” the authors explain.

Over the period reviewed, there were on average 232 agriculture-related fatalities per year in the Midwest region, an annual rate of 19.94 agriculture-related deaths per 100,000 farm operators. This compares with an overall rate of 3.4 fatal work injuries per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers across all industries in 2012.

The researchers also report that agriculture-related fatalities increase with age. Over three-quarters (77%) of agriculture-related deaths occurred among persons 45 years or older, and 41% occurred in individuals 65 and older. Less than 3% of agriculture-related fatalities occurred among minors less than 16 years old.

Other findings include:

  • Agriculture-related fatality is much more commonly experienced by males than females. Of the 1,858 total agriculture-related deaths studied, 95% occurred in males while only 5% occurred in females.
  • More than half (51.6%) of individuals who died due to an agriculture-related injury were performing a vehicle- or transportation-related task at the time of the incident. Of these 958 fatalities, 315, or 33%, were due to farm vehicle (e.g. tractor) rollovers.
  • Agriculture-related fatalities are most frequent from late spring to early fall. The greatest number of deaths occurred in July (13%), while the lowest number of deaths occurred in December (4%).
  • Fatalities most often occurred within 24 hours of the inciting injury, however deaths occurring after 24 hours were more frequent with increasing age. The fact that some older individuals do not die immediately of their injuries suggests that there may be an opportunity for medical intervention to potentially save these lives, however further research is needed.

Great Plains Center holds workshop for agricultural medicine professionals

Students in the agricultural medicine course conduct a simulated grain bin rescue.
Students in the agricultural medicine course conducted a simulated grain bin rescue in June 2014.

The Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health hosted the workshop “Building Capacity: A National Resource of Agricultural Medicine Professionals” Jan. 14-15 at the UI College of Public Health. The attendees included six partners from Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Texas, and Vermont who teach the agricultural health and safety course called Agricultural Medicine: The Core Course.

“The development of the course was supported by the Great Plains Center through a consensus process with our partners and other leaders in agricultural safety and health,” says Diane Rohlman, associate professor of occupational and environmental health and one of the center’s project leaders. “The University of Iowa has long been recognized as a global leader in agricultural safety and health education.”

Since 2007 the course has been offered 26 times in eight states, as well as in Australia and Turkey. More than 600 students have completed the course, primarily health care providers (physicians, nurses/nurse practitioners, physician assistants), veterinarians, medical students and public health graduate students, and health and safety professionals including Extension, safety managers, producers, and county public health workers.

Agricultural medicine is a specialty of the broader field of occupational safety and health that is targeted towards an interdisciplinary audience of rural health and safety professionals. While those professionals are a key link in delivering occupational health and safety services to the agricultural community, they generally do not receive adequate training, a need this course addresses.

The workshop was held to discuss course revisions and identify approaches to ensure sustainability. Based on a review in 2012, the center revised the curriculum to:

  • meet the needs of the center’s current and target population: people who engage with and protect agricultural populations;
  • emphasize safety and injury prevention in the curriculum and provide practical approaches for controlling hazards;
  • add greater cultural relevance (both national and global perspectives);
  • include new/emerging issues and topics (such as rural roadway safety, ATVs, mechanization); and
  • incorporate more active learning – case studies, field trips, hands on activities.

Raising awareness about farm safety in Iowa

National Farm Safety Week logoAccording to the U.S Department of Agriculture, Iowa farmers are expected to bring in by far the largest harvest ever in 2014. The bumper crop means farmers will be working more days and longer hours, and amplifies the need for awareness around farm safety.

“This week is National Farm Safety Week, and with harvest right around the corner, highlighting farm safety could not come at a better time,” says Fred Gerr, director of the University of Iowa’s Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health based in the UI College of Public Health. “Farming is still one of the country’s most dangerous professions, and we must do everything we can to help farmers in Iowa and throughout the U.S. have a successful and safe harvest season.”

The 2014 Farm Safety and Health Week runs from Sept. 21-27. This year’s theme, “Safety Counts: Protecting What Matters,” underscores the importance of all Iowans working together to build a safer and healthier agricultural work place.

The UI College of Public Health is one of the pre-eminent academic institutions conducting research, education, and outreach on rural health and safety. The college’s activities in the area encompass a wide range of topics that directly affect the health of Iowans. For more information on agricultural safety, visit the following resources:

  • Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health: The University of Iowa’s Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health, one of 10 U.S. Agricultural Centers funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), is committed to partnering with agricultural producers, agricultural safety and health professionals, agricultural businesses, and government agencies to deliver the most effective agricultural safety and health programs possible. The center has a wide range of educational materials available and offers in-person training and small grant opportunities.
  • Iowa’s Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (I-CASH): The vision of I-CASH is to make Iowa the world’s healthiest and safest agricultural environment in which to live and work. The center is a state-wide organization created in 1990 by the Iowa State Legislature in partnership with Iowa State University, the Iowa Department of Health, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, and a diverse group of private and public agricultural health and safety organizations.

For more information on National Farm Safety and Health Week, and safety resources, visit the website of the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety,

Additional agricultural safety and health resources can be found on the NIOSH Agricultural Centers’ YouTube channel, The channel features more than 40 videos available for Extension agents/educators, agricultural science teachers, producers/owner/operators, first responders and agricultural families.