Current SW Ag Center Projects

Projects are awarded funding from NIOSH on a competitive basis.

2016-2021 PROJECTS

Improving Crew Overboard Recovery for Commercial Fishing Vessels in the Gulf of Mexico
Principal Investigator: Jeffrey Levin, MD, DrPH; Cynthia Ball, DO

This research project has three specific aims:

Shrimp fishermen listening to educational presentation.
Shrimp fishermen listening to educational presentation
  1. Distribute crew overboard (COB) recovery slings to commercial shrimp fishing vessel owners at selected ports/landing sites along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf coast.
  2. Provide mandatory training and drill instruction for installation and use of the recovery devices including maneuvering to the COB, securing the COB, and implementing a mechanical advantage to hoist and re-board the COB.
  3. Administer surveys at the time of training and at follow-up to obtain information on commercial fishermen’s experience with COB; to assess attitudes, beliefs, and intention toward COB recovery methods in this project; and assess perceived ability as well as efficiency of using the recovery sling.

Partners include U.S. Coast Guard District 8, LSU Sea Grant, Southeastern Louisiana University, and Texas AHEC East-Coastal Region.

Southern Region Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network
Principal Investigator: Natalie Roy, AgriSafe Network

Including the SW Ag Center and AgriSafe, a coalition of eight partner organizations from southern states will join forces to respond to farmers, farmworkers and ranchers under stress, creating S-FRSAN. This alliance aims to establish a network throughout the southern United States that connects individuals who are engaged in farming, ranching, and other agriculture-related occupations to stress assistance programs. The establishment of a network that assists farmers and ranchers in times of stress will offer a conduit to improving behavioral health awareness, literacy and outcomes for agricultural producers, workers and their families. The group seeks novel implementations that will allow alignment with the multitude of stressors experienced by farmers and ranchers.

Health, Safety and Psychosocial Organic Farming Survey
Principal Investigator: Francisco Soto Mas, MD, PhD, MPH

This project builds on the results of a feasibility study on organic farming in central New Mexico that was funded by the SW Ag Center and completed in 2014 (Soto Mas, Handal, Rohrer, Tomalá, 2017). The overall aim of the study is to develop, validate and administer a comprehensive survey that identifies and typifies health and safety risks among organic producers in the SW Ag region, and provides information on the occupational, psychosocial, contextual factors that may contribute to injury and disease prevention. The survey will also explore issues related to the participation of organic farmers in surveillance systems for occupational injuries and illnesses.

Physical Exposures and Musculoskeletal Symptoms Among Logging Machine Operators
Principal Investigator: Dave Douphrate, PhD, MPT, MBA, CPE, CSP

Logging machines may expose workers to risk factors associated with the development of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), which include whole-body vibration (WBV), static and awkward postures, and repetitive hand and feet movements (Douphrate, Casanova, Levin, 2015). Literature regarding ergonomic investigations of WBV, postures, and repetitive movements among logging machine operators (LMOs) is limited, as no studies have measured these exposures simultaneously using direct instrumentation. A more comprehensive understanding of the interactions between these physical risk factors will help guide the development of interventions to decrease the incidence of work-related MSDs among LMOs.

Poultry Dust Exposure and Lung Inflammation
Principal Investigator: Vijay Boggaram, PhD

The U.S. is the world’s largest poultry producer and the second-largest egg producer and exporter of poultry meat (USDA). Changes in livestock production have led to high density animal farming known as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO). CAFOs expose workers to high levels of airborne dust and bioaerosols and pose health and environmental risks (Gilchrist, et. al. 2007). Dust in poultry CAFOs contains organic and inorganic material derived from litter, feed, fecal material, feather, dander and microorganisms (Just, et.al, 2009; Poole, et. al. 2010). This project investigates the effects of broiler dust on inflammatory responses of bronchial and alveolar epithelial cells in cell culture and mouse model system. The study will fill significant gaps in knowledge on lung inflammatory responses to poultry dust. This information will be useful in understanding the pathogenesis of organic dust induced lung diseases and for the development of novel intervention measures and treatments.

Occupational Exposures of Tree Planters in the Forestry Sector
Principal Investigator: Vanessa Casanova, PhD

Forestry and logging occupations have a high rate of fatalities and non-fatal injuries. The forestry and logging sector represents a significant contribution to the economies of TX, LA and AR. Developing sound solutions to occupational safety and health issues requires an accurate characterization and estimate of injuries and exposures. The primary objective of this project is to provide an evidence base for a research program that focuses on the occupational health and safety outcomes of tree planters in the forestry services sector. Using a participatory approach, this project will commence with an assessment of work place risks and exposures, using both direct measures and self-report with both manual and machine tree planters.

Reducing Pesticide Exposure Among Latino Adolescents through Promotora-Based Interventions
Principal Investigator: Michael Merten, PhD

Adolescent Latino farmworkers come into contact with agricultural pesticides through occupational exposure. In recent data collected by our team, our adolescents had elevated concentrations of 3PBA, roughly in the 90th percentile for 12-19 year olds in the nation. Prior work has clearly illustrated the value of La Familia Sana, a promotora-based intervention in improving knowledge and understanding of how to reduce paraoccupational exposure in the home. However, it remains unclear whether this evidence-based intervention is capable of producing changes in safety behaviors among adolescent Latino farmworkers. The goal of this study is to determine the effectiveness of a promotora-based intervention in protecting adolescents from exposure to pesticides.

Contributing Factors to Slips, Trips and Falls Among Shrimp Fishermen
Principal Investigator: Cheryl Cooper, PhD, MSN

Commercial fishing is known to be one of the most dangerous occupations in the U.S.; however, little is known about actual contributing factors to slips, trips, and falls among shrimp fishermen. Although proven measures are available to improve safety in the work environment, the acceptance of safety interventions is not widely embraced by Vietnamese shrimp fisherman and even less is known about Hispanic shrimp fishermen. Our proposed approach of industrial hygiene and safety, sociology, occupational medicine, and epidemiology will provide detailed information on cultural and non-cultural work-related behaviors, attitudes, and practices, which influence slip, trip, and fall hazards and risks and the acceptance of safety interventions among Texas shrimp fishermen. This is the first study to investigate the obstacles to safety interventions to non-fatal slip, trip, and fall injuries and identify effective safety intervention methods.

The Impact of Thermal Load on PFD Use Among Shrimp Fishermen
Principal Investigator: Ann Carruth, DNS

Falls overboard are the 2nd most frequent cause of death in the U.S. commercial fishing industry and are the most prominent cause of death in Southeastern shrimp fisheries, accounting for 61% of worker deaths. The proposed research seeks to address falls overboard and personal floatation device (PFD) use. Activities will focus on improving PFD use by addressing heat reduction and comfort measures among Vietnamese commercial fishermen while working in the Gulf of Mexico. Findings from the PI’s previous research revealed increased thermal load while working as a major barrier to wearing PFDs. The objective of this translation project is to test the physiological impact of heat on PFD use and to design and test a multimodal and culturally appropriate social marketing campaign to increase adoption of recommendations for heat stress reduction to increase acceptability of PFDs.

Leveraging Motor Vehicle Crash Data for Injury Surveillance and Research in AFF
Principal Investigator: Eva Shipp, PhD

In the U.S., the number one cause of fatal occupational injuries is highway transportation crashes (CDC, 2011 in MMWR). AFF workers experience substantially higher transportation-related injury rates compared to other workers. Additionally, all states in the Center’s region were among those with the highest or second highest rates (CDC, 2011). National or regional estimates of nonfatal injury rates are not widely available and the most recent national study of fatal injury is over 20 years old. In 2009, a USDA report said that, “many details of public road crashes involving agricultural machinery and motor vehicles are unknown or lack sufficient detail to aid prevention efforts” (CASHRE/USDA, 2009). This project addresses these issues by leveraging the availability of crash records and applying computer science approaches to mine these data in a new way.

2011-2016 PROJECTS

Poultry Dust Exposure and Lung Inflammation
Principal Investigator: Vijay Boggaram, Ph.D.

Project Fact Sheet

Although the prevalence and severity of respiratory illness is higher among poultry workers, compared to other animal farm workers, there is insufficient information on the effects of poultry dust on lung inflammatory responses and lung disease. Considering the rapid growth of poultry production and the risk for exposed workers to develop lung diseases, it is very important to understand mechanisms mediating poultry dust induced lung inflammation and lung disease in order to develop new preventive measures and treatments. The proposed studies use in vitro cell culture and mouse model systems to elucidate molecular mechanisms mediating inflammatory responses of alveolar and airway epithelial cells to poultry dust.

Neuromotor Function & Work Injury Risk Among Hispanic Adolescent Farmworkers
Principal Investigator: Eva Shipp, Ph.D.

This project will examine whether chronic, low-level exposure to pesticides is a major contributor to injury among adolescent farmworkers. The scope of work seeks to (1) build research capacity with strategic partnerships, (2) collect study variables before and after the migration season when exposure occurs, and (3) use study findings to carry out research to practice activities. The long term goal is this project is to reduce the high rates of injury among adolescent farmworkers by intervening on main contributing causes.

Educational Approach to Increase Respirator Use Among Broiler Chicken Workers
Principal Investigator: Matthew Nonnenmann, Ph.D., CIH

Project Fact Sheet

Broiler chicken workers in confined animal feeding operations are exposed to inhalation hazards that include dust, bacteria, fungi, endotoxin and ammonia. Broiler workers or “growers” may not be aware of the inhalation hazards present in broiler buildings or adequately trained to select and correctly use respiratory protection. Therefore, the proposed studies are aimed to determine the awareness of inhalation hazards, tasks performed, respirator usage and barriers to respirator use in the broiler production environment among two geographically isolated groups of broiler growers in Texas.

Marketing Safety and Health among Vietnamese Commercial Fishermen
Principal Investigator: Ann Carruth, DNS, RN

Project Fact Sheet

Commercial fishing injury and mortality rates are among the highest in the world. The goal of this project is to expand current NIOSH research related to Worker Health Protection among Shrimp Fishermen of the Gulf Coast, with a long term goal to effectively reduce illness and injuries through a social marketing campaign. This project aims to (1) establish a baseline of Vietnamese fishermen knowledge, behaviors, cultural norms, and unmet needs, and (2) design and test a social marketing intervention campaign to increase vessel safety and health mitigation behaviors among Vietnamese shrimp fishermen.