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Feasibility Projects Program

In collaboration with NIOSH, the Southeast Center supports feasibility studies that focus on agricultural occupational safety and health in the southeastern United States. Feasibility awards are intended to support innovative pilot projects that are likely to lead to larger funded studies and the translation of research to practice. This pilot grant program is open to both new and veteran researchers throughout our 10-state region: KY, TN, WV, VA, NC, SC, GA, MS, AL, FL.

The 2013-2014 Request for Proposals (RFP) expired on July 31. New awards were announced on September 25, 2013. Any future RFP will be posted here in spring 2014.

Studies currently or recently funded include the following:

Sun protection behaviors among Hispanic farmworkers

Principal Investigator: Greg Kearney, DrPH, MPH; Assistant Professor, Department of Public Health, Brody School of Medicine; East Carolina University

Skin cancer rates among Hispanic farmworkers are relatively unknown and studies of their sun protection behavior are limited. This descriptive pilot study thus aims to (1) Evaluate sun protection attitude, knowledge and behaviors of Hispanic migrant and seasonal farmworkers when working in outdoor agricultural activities. (2) Use data and information from Aim 1 to develop and provide a culturally appropriate educational sun safety component both in English and Spanish to inform and educate Hispanic farm workers of the dangers of excessive UVR sun exposure. The investigators plan to measure the sun safety perceptions and behaviors of farm workers in two eastern NC counties (Halifax and Greene Counties, n = 125). They further plan to provide a crude estimate of (pre)cancerous skin conditions among outdoor farm workers; document (by using an electronic, time stamped, UVR dosimeter wristwatch) the extent and duration of UVR exposure among 4 subjects for approximately 8 weeks; and develop a culturally appropriate educational intervention or educational materials based on pilot findings to reduce UVR exposure among Latino farmworkers. 09/30/13-09/29/14.

Effects of obesity on the work and safety of farmers

Principal Investigator: Sharon Hunsucker, RN, MSN, ARNP; University of Kentucky College of Nursing

This project seeks to describe the relationship between obesity and work ability, work productivity, and work-related injuries in farmers. This objective is in keeping with NORA II strategic goal 5: "To improve the health and well-being of agricultural workers by reducing occupational and contributing factors to acute and chronic illness and disease (NORA 2008). Several hypotheses will be tested:
H1: Farmers with higher levels of BMI will have decreased work ability index (WAI) scores. H2a: Farmers with higher levels of BMI will score higher on work limitations questionnaire (WLQ).
H2b: Farmers with higher levels of BMI will have higher levels of absenteeism.
H3: Farmers with higher levels of BMI will have higher rates of work-related injuries.
H4a: Central obesity will be a stronger predictor of poor work ability than elevated BMI.
H4b: Central obesity will be a stronger predictor of lower work productivity than elevated BMI.
H4c: Central obesity will be a stronger predictor of higher rates of work injury than elevated BMI.
The project team will conduct anthropometric measurements and administer the WAI survey and WLQ questionnaire among farmers attending the National Farm Machinery Show, North American Livestock Expo, Acres USA annual conference and trade show, Kentucky Women in Agriculture convention, and other events. 09/30/13-09/29/14

Environmental impacts on effectiveness of permethrin-treated clothing used by foresters to prevent mosquito bites

Principal Investigator: Stephanie L. Richards, MSEH, PhD; Assistant Professor, Environmental Health Sciences Program, College of Health and Human Performance, East Carolina University

Continuing a previously funded CARERC pilot study (04/13–09/30/13), this project aims to: (1) Evaluate the effects of environmental exposure on the ability of permethrin-treated fabrics to induce mosquito knockdown and/or mortality; (2) Assess the extent to which environmental conditions (e.g., light, temperature, humidity, number of washes) impact the concentration of permethrin in treated clothing. Such clothing is designed to protect foresters and other outdoor workers from mosquito and tick exposure and exposure to pathogens such as West Nile Virus, LaCrosse virus, and Eastern equine encephalitis, etc. A study by Vaughn & Meshnick (unpublished) has shown that effectiveness of permethrin treated clothing drops from 83% to 38% by its second year of wear. Other studies have explored the role of temperature, humidity, fabric content and weight, and repeated washings in reducing the effectiveness of permethrin treated clothing. The authors anticipate that findings from this study will enhance understanding of the effectiveness of PPE available to foresters, and aid stakeholders in conducting cost-benefit analyses when selecting fabrics/uniforms.

Integration of Cost-Effective ROPS (CROPS) Construction and Installations into Agricultural Mechanics Courses

Principal Investigator: Stacy Vincent, PhD, Assistant Professor, Agricultural Education, College of Agriculture, University of Kentucky. Co-investigator: Joan Mazur, PhD, Professor, UK College of Education.

A model approach to promoting prevention through design (PtD), this project seeks to reduce exposure to tractor overturn hazards in four Kentucky counties through the installation of cost-effective ROPS on at least 16 farm tractors in 7 rural Kentucky counties (Laurel, Whitley, McCreary, Anderson, Boyle, Mercer, Nelson and LaRue Counties). The project is testing the feasibility of integrating CROPS construction and installation projects into required Agricultural Mechanics classes in seven rural county high school agricultural education programs, thereby helping to institutionalize proven instructional techniques for helping students recognize the high costs of injuries and the cost-effectiveness of prevention. As part of the systematic evaluation of this education/translation project, the research team will conduct a pre-post evaluation of knowledge/awareness of CROPS and assess students' acquired skills in constructing and installing CROPS. Study findings will be disseminated among educators nationally and at the state level (NAAE, FFA, et al.). Pilot award dates 09/30/2012–09/29/2013; project activity continuing in 2014.

Tomato Worker Ergonomics: REBA Panel Evaluation of Video

Principal Investigator: Ken Silver, DSc, Associate Professor of Environmental Health, East Tennessee State University.

Tomato workers cultivate and harvest Tennessee's leading fruit crop and engage in physically demanding indoor and outdoor tasks such as lifting, stooping, and carrying. This community based study is therefore relevant not only to workers in the field and processing facilities, but also to their employers and rural health care providers. The study aimed to inform a larger epidemiological study of the burden of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and pain medication ("pill") use among migrant and seasonal tomato workers, as well as potential evaluation of ergonomic controls; e.g., such as engineered bucket lifts, truck conveyor belts, etc. Start/end 01/01/2012–09/29/2013.

Silver K, Hoffman K, Loury S, Fethke N, Liebman A, Manz N, et al. A campus-community partnership for farmworkers' health: an intervention for tomato workers in Tennessee. Prog Community Health Partnersh [Johns Hopkins University Press]. 2015 Jan;9(1):pp-pp.

Manz N, Silver K, Fethke N, Hoffman K, Loury S, Florence J. Building a consensus for tomato worker ergonomics: A community-expert panel study. 140th Annual Meeting and Exposition of the American Public Health Association. 2012 Oct 29.

Emergency Tractor Shut-Off using a Voice Command System

Principal Investigator: Glen Rains, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, University of Georgia.

This prevention through design (PtD) project has sought to develop an effective voice-command emergency stop system for tractors. The challenge: How to make voice commands recognizable from a distance when loud background (e.g., engine) noise is present. Dr. Rains et al. have been working to develop a speech recognition system using CMU-Sphinx to enable a tractor to be shut-off using a linear actuator connected to the fuel shut-off system. The results of this effort will inform future studies to increase the complexity of the interface to accomplish tasks such as automatically sending a HELP signal when the tractor operator is not responding or has not returned to his or her seat within a specific period of time. In addition to potentially increasing emergency response times, improved voice-recognition technology may benefit older farmers and farmers with disabilities: cf., e.g., Jenan Jones Benson, "Injury and illnesss recovery," Growing Magazine http://www.growingmagazine.com/print-5135.aspx. Through this Southeast Center-funded pilot, Dr. Rains and his team have conducted multiple signal-relay tests using a John Deere 5510 tractor, aimed at developing a neural network and actuator that would function effectively in the presence of engine noise.

Rains GC, Emergency tractor shut-off using a voice command system, Annual International Meeting of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE); Montreal, Canada; 2014 Jul 13-16.

Dr. Rains plans a related manuscript for submission to the Journal of Rural Health in 2014. Pilot funding start/end: 09/30/2012–09/29/2013.

West Virginia Logger Hazard Awareness and Injury Risk Perception

Principal Investigator: Marc D. Fullen, EdD, CSP; Program Leader, Associate Professor, Safety and Health Extension, West Virginia University

This pilot study will develop a survey tool and collect pilot data on hazard awareness and injury risk perception data among West Virginia loggers and small company owners/operators, as well as differences in risk perception between these groups. Specifically, the authors aim to (1) develop a survey instrument designed to assess the level of hazard awareness among loggers and owner/operators; (2) explore the level of hazard awareness and injury risk perception among loggers and logger owner/operators; (3) identify differences in hazard awareness and injury risk perception between the two sub-samples, including a survey (n=100) and oral interviews among a sub-sample; and (4) use the survey results to identify gaps in hazard awareness and injury risk perception among loggers and logger owner operators in order to inform the development of future targeted interventions. 09/30/13-09/29/14

Assessing the Effectiveness of Audience Response System Technology in Pesticide Applicator Training

Principal Investigator: W. Gregory Cope, PhD; Professor and Extension Leader, Department of Environmental & Molecular Toxicology; North Carolina State University.

This study has aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of audience response system (ARS) technology in enhancing pesticide applicator safety training provided through the NC Cooperative Extension Service in five geographical districts of North Carolina. Acomplete set of ARS technology (hand-held response cards and receiver) was purchased for each of the five NC districts. Twenty Cooperative Extension county pesticide education coordinators, representing all five districts, were invited to participate in the project and trained to implement and evaluate ARS in their pesticide applicator re-certification programs. In February 2013, two full-day workshops, led by Dr. Catherine LePrevost, were held in Raleigh for the Enhancing Pesticide Applicator Education through ARS Technology Workshop. Participants received technical training in using ARS, learned best practices when teaching with the technology, and practiced creating and delivering ARS presentations in small groups. The pesticide education coordinators will collect data on their trainees' learning and receptiveness to the technology, as well as their own teaching practices through the first quarter of 2014. Through this exemplary research-to-practice project, the potential for statewide expansion of ARS implementation in pesticide applicator training programs will be evaluated. Pilot funding start/end 09/30/2012–09/29/2013.

LePrevost CE, Cope WG, Storm JF. Assessing the effectiveness of audience response system technology in pesticide applicator training. Paper presented at the 2013 Annual meeting of the International Society for Agricultural Safety and Health. Sandusky, OH; 2013 Jun 23-27.

Triazine herbicides and birth defects in Kentucky

Principal Investigator: Steve Browning, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Epidemiology UK College of Public Health. Co-investigator: David R. Bardach, PhD student; Departments of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Kentucky

This project aims to (1) develop, in collaboration with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and the Kentucky Geologic Survey, a database of triazine herbicide usage and concentrations of triazine herbicides in Kentucky water systems by county and region, 1998-2007; (2) evaluate the correlations between agricultural activities (such as acres and bushels of crops produced), herbicide use, and concentrations of triazine herbicides in water systems using county and region as analytical units; (3) conduct an ecologic study of the association between the incidence rate of various birth defects by county and region with triazine herbicide usage metrics and concentrations in water systems (in collaboration with the Division of Maternal and Child Health, Kentucky Department of Public Health). Relevance: This study will contribute new knowledge in environmental health that is expected to enhance the safety of vulnerable populations, in particular women and children in utero. Start/end 09/30/2012–09/29/2013.

Characteristics of All-Terrain Vehicles and Their Operators on Kentucky Farms

Principal Investigator: Jessica Wilson, PhD, MSN, ARNP, Clinical Instructor, UK College of Nursing.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Kentucky led the nation for ATV-related deaths from 2002-2006. Using the Theory of Planned Behavior as a conceptual framework, this study increased knowledge of ATV prevalence and patterns of use on Kentucky farms and identified sub-populations whose age, environment, riding characteristics, etc., place them at high risk for ATV injury events. A random survey of farm households (N= 2,292) and subsequent data analysis revealed the prevalence of ATVs and their utilization for work and leisure on Kentucky farms; ATV-related injuries among members of farm households; farmers' perceived risks of operating ATVs on the farm; and associations between factors related to riding ATVs, including riding behavior, risk-taking propensity, farm type, attitudes toward ATV policy, and ATV-related injury status.

Each of these studies represents a worthy investment in the safety and health of agricultural workers and their families. The Southeast Center is pleased to support these and other innovative projects, which involve substantive cooperation among multiple stakeholders and affirm our commitment to applied, transdisciplinary research.