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J Agromedicine. 2009;14(4):421-36. doi: 10.1080/10599240903389508.

Migrant farmworker field and camp safety and sanitation in eastern North Carolina.

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  • 1Department of Family and Community Medicine, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27157-1084, USA.


Migrant farmworkers are exposed to numerous workplace hazards, with pesticides being a ubiquitous occupational exposure. This analysis describes farmworker experiences of field and camp safety conditions and their safety behaviors, and delineates farmworker characteristics associated with safety conditions and behaviors. Data were collected from 255 migrant farmworkers up to 4 times at monthly intervals during the 2007 agricultural season in eastern North Carolina. Measures assess field safety conditions and camp sanitation required by federal and state regulations. Most of the farmworkers were Latino men from Mexico. About 20% had not received pesticide safety training across the season; many of those who received such training did not understand it. Water for washing was not available for about one-third of the workers; soap and towels were not available for over half. About 20% lived in camps with more than eight workers per showerhead and about 20% lived in camps that failed to meet the standard of 30 or fewer workers per washtub/washing machine. Important predictors of variation included H2A visa status and years of experience. Four themes emerged from the analysis: (1) safety regulations are not consistently met; (2) farmworkers do not always practice safety behaviors; (3) camps become more crowded and less compliant during the middle of the agricultural season; and (4) workers with H2A visas experience better conditions and practice more safety behaviors than do workers who do not have H2A visas. Further research needs to account for social and cultural factors. Regulations should be compared with pesticide metabolite levels to measure their effectiveness. More effort is needed to enforce existing regulations.

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