I. IntroductionAgriculture inIran employs a considerable part of occupational potentials, by which most of villages,hamlets, and country lands feed the whole nation. According to evidence, Iranis ranked fourteenth in respect to irrigated land per capita, fifteenth intotal agricultural land, and fifty-seventh in agricultural land per capita.
Approximately one-third of total area of the nation is suitable for farmland;however, inadequate water distribution has limited its capacity. Consideringthe present limitations, some one-eighth of total land area of Iran is undercultivation. As an economic perspective, agricultural activities account for20% of national GDP, and farmworkers have entailed 16.3% of national workforce.
The prominence of agriculture in Iran is of no question, and for the reasonswhich were briefly mentioned above, this text was intended to be written inorder to offer a better understanding of the hazards and risks in Iranianfarmlands.Based onstatistical data, agricultural activities account for considerable mortality atthe workplace. Globally, with 170,000 mortalities per year, it has been rankedas the third hazardous occupation after mining industry and civil workers.
Developing nations are seen as the mostly-suspected culprits, due to the broadgap in their workplace standards, shortage of guidelines, and lack of technology.Land fields are not monitored, nor maintained; thus their general safety is amatter of argument. The overall objective of this text is to help promote moreof a preventive occupational safety in agricultural lands of Iran. It has beenthoroughly discussed in the following three sections. Section II arguments thecondition of farmers and farmlands in Iran. Section III focuses on the hazardsof agricultural activities and Section IV comes up with possible alternativesto the problems mentioned in section III.
In short, this text helps to raiseawareness of the hazards and risks associated with agriculture and how they canbe effectively managed and controlled. II. Agriculture inIranOne may describe the agriculture inIran as the beating heart of its body. Although agriculture in the public viewhas been mostly seen as the state of farming in a land, it actually comprisesvarious subsections and subdivisions, including organic agriculture,domesticated animals, bee keeping, and aquaculture (i.e.
the cultivation of seafood, and sea products as shrimp, fish, algae, etc.). The most rural areas inIran depend on the agricultural industry to make the ends meet. On the otherhand, the corrupt condition of many farmlands has obliged them to move tocities and has lessened the potential behind. Also, the non-automatedagricultural systems in many regions expose the labor force to considerablerisks and hazards.
This is to an extent that the agriculture occupation hasbeen claimed to be the third hazardous career in the world. According toevidence and statistics, it has a mortality rate of some 170,000 people annually.In Iran, there are many critics towards this industry and many questions are stillleft unanswered and are currently one of the hot topics of newspapers and media.In this study, the most attention haspaid to organic agriculture and animal husbandry rather than bee keeping andaquaculture.
In my homeland, Pastures and rangelands, where most farmers workon, are the most common form of land use in terms of spatial distribution. In addition,domesticated animals are also kept both by the farmworkers and the ruralpopulation. The irrigation condition in the province I live in, East Azerbaijan,is not as good as Northern regions of Iran, yet is better than many desert-likedistricts in central provinces. Thus, the natural irrigation in some areas hasbeen based on groundwater, and nearby rivers or water streams. Regarding this,unfortunately there is a vast amount of critics against damn constructions andthe dried lake of Urmia which is not irrelevant to the topic.
Unawareness ofconsequences in a period of time, both in water distribution management, and thelack of drip- or micro-irrigation in many farmlands, might have resulted in thepresent situation. These problems and the sense of probable hazards made mechoose this occupation as my project in environmental health and ergonomicsanalysis for my MPH studies. In this text, I have tried to approach different aspectsof agriculture, exploring the adventures behind this common occupation. Thistext will respond to questions that what are the hazards and perils in Iranianagriculture, who are the victims, and what are the probable culprits. Then, atthe end of the each section, alternatives are proposed for each mentionedproblem. This is a field study of farmlands in East Azerbaijan, and claims arebased on accessible evidence, observations, and interviews.III.
Occupational Hazards and PotentialResolutions1.? Machinery and work equipment safetyAgricultureinvolves the use of a wide variety of hazardous machinery and processes. Amongthe most common are tractors, cultivators, harrows, seeding equipment,sprayers, harvesters, mowers, balers, grinders, trucks, wagons, trailers,all-terrain vehicles, augers, manure spreaders, and elevating equipment.
Inaddition, a wide range of tools are used both in agricultural production andwhen carrying out repairs. The principal safety risks include traumaticinjuries including, but not limited to, cuts, burns, electrocution, fracturesand amputations caused by contact with cutters, gears, belts, shafts and othermoving parts, burst hydraulic hoses and contact with live electrical equipment.Such injuries occur not only during the course of production but also duringmaintenance and repairs, cleaning, clearing blockages, etc. The effects of suchinjuries can be all the more serious because many farm workers work alone andfirst aid or medical help may be far away. used.Farm tractorsare the most important piece of power equipment used in agriculture and areassociated with a major proportion of injuries and deaths inagricultural production and maintenance. Hazards associated with tractors canbe grouped into instability resulting in rollovers, run-overs, and othermiscellaneous risks including, but not limited to, slips and falls whenclimbing on or off tractors, crushing injuries from unintended rolling, anddriving under low-hanging branches.
Also Noise associated with farm tractors canresult in hearing impairment. Vibration associated with tractors may result inmusculoskeletal injuries. These will be thoroughly discussed in upcomingsections.Elimination of the hazard: The elimination of hazards relative to themaintenance and operation of tractors in agricultural environments presents amajor challenge. Total elimination may prove difficult given the number andvariety of tractors, the wide range of tasks and the level of risk in theoutdoor environment.
Nonetheless, the employer should have as a goal theelimination of tractor hazards by the use of all safety modalities available,including engineering controls, safe work systems and procedures and the training,induction and supervision of workers. The employer should ensure that the brakes,emergency brakes, lights, signal lights and other safety devices are regularly maintainedand kept in safe working condition.In addition to aforementionedhazards about tractors, agriculturalworkers use a wide variety of equipment and tools that are designed toundertake a range of tasks including but not limited to tilling the soil, sowingseeds, applying agricultural chemicals, harvesting and storing crops, cuttingand baling hay, grinding feed, hauling manure and many other tasks. Tillage equipment, such as ploughs andcultivators, seeders, chemical sprayers of both the hand-held andmachine-mounted variety, swathers, combines, mowers, balers, feed grinders,manure spreaders and numerous other large and small machines includinghydraulic devices, have all been implicated in accidents involving seriousinjury or death. Such machinery includes rotating components, sharp cuttingedges, transmission belts and chain drives, feed rolls and gear drives that,unless properly guarded, pose a grave risk of amputation, crushing orentanglement that may result in severe disability or death.
Accidents involvinghand tools such as hoes, hammers, crowbars, picks and beaters, sickles,scythes, cutlasses and machetes and portable power tools may lead to scratches,lacerations, amputations of digits or limbs or other injuries, some of whichmay result in severe disability or death.2.? Ergonomics and the handling ofmaterialsErgonomic factors affect the health outcomes ofagricultural workers. These include:– the nature of the physical work environment(noise, heat, lighting, thermal comfort), the agricultural tasks to beperformed;– the technology applied to the prescribedtasks (including workplace design, facility design, and agricultural material handling);– the manner in which tasks are organized(including use of shift work); and– worker characteristics (includingdemographics, physiology, human error, and identification and treatment ofinjured workers).
Agriculturalwork can span a wide range of tasks from arduous to sedentary, from stooping,reaching, bending, and carrying out repetitive movements in awkward bodypositions to sitting in air-conditioned or heated comfort while operatingsophisticated agricultural equipment. Economic, topographical, technical,gender-based and even socio-cultural factors may limit mechanization or usage,and where implemented, may introduce new ergonomic risk resulting fromequipment design and vibration. Huge technological challenges to design andintroduction of technology to replace manual labor remain within manyagricultural worksites. There is still extensive reliance on manual labor. Many agricultural work environments are characterized by labor-intensivepractices such as manual seeding (transplanting rice, fresh vegetables, orhorticultural products), crop maintenance (weeding, pruning, grafting, or handtillage), harvest (hand picking of fresh fruits and vegetables, copra, orkapok), or post-harvest activities (inspection, packing, or loading/shipping). Themanual planting of seedlings, crop maintenance (weeding, pruning, andgrafting), the manual harvest of fresh fruits, nuts, vegetables, and palm oil,and post-harvest handling of these products may cause cumulative traumadisorders, neck and upper extremity impairment, and lower back impairment.
Workersmay engage in prolonged exposures to stooped work (transplanting seedlings,pre-harvest weeding, or crop harvest by hand) that involves sustained orrepeated reaching and twisting to full body bending. Further, agricultural workmay be conducted in hot and/or humid, or cold environments; both indoors andoutdoors.Moreover, workersmay perform very highly repetitive hand work (clipping, cutting, or manualplant shank pulling) which requires simultaneous non-neutral posturing of thehand or wrist with both applied upper-bound hand force (either to the tool orto the crop) and speed of hand/wrist movement. Highly repetitive hand workduring the manual maintenance and harvest of crops, and the coupling ofnon-neutral postures, the force applied, and the speed of hand actioncontribute to the risk of developing upper limb musculoskeletal injuries. Movingagricultural equipment and vehicles, motorized platforms used during plantingor harvesting, mechanical harvesters employing vibrating technology, and worksurfaces employing embedded weighing scales may induce whole body vibration.
Excessiveexposure to hand-transmitted vibration can cause disorders in the bloodvessels, nerves, muscles, and bones and joints of the upper limbs of the humanbody. Whole body vibration, depending on magnitudeand duration, can lead to diseases of the peripheral nerves, prostatitis, andboth acute and chronic back injury.3.? ChemicalsThe widespreaduse of agrochemicals in agriculture worldwide requires rigorous control toprevent serious health risks to employers, workers and the general public.Sound management of chemicals and the deployment of the full hierarchy ofcontrols are needed to minimize occupational exposures. Pesticides are the chemicals of greatestconcern in regard to health and safety in agriculture. Pesticides arecategorized according to their use, and include fungicides, herbicides,insecticides, larvicides, miticides, molluscicides, nematicids, ovicides,piscicides and rodenticides. Other chemicals classed as pesticides includeattractants, chemosterilants, defoliants, desiccants, disinfectants, growthregulators, pheromones, feed attractants and repellents.
Fertilizersthat are a toxic hazard for workers can cause skin irritation and potentiallyserious respiratory effects through the inhalation of gaseous forms ofanhydrous ammonia. Absorption through the skin is the primary route of exposurefor most widely used insecticides, fungicides and herbicides. At normalexposure levels, skin damage or other symptoms may not be noticed, so absorptionoccurs without the worker’s knowledge. The distribution of skin exposure willbe determined by the particular work tasks. Care should be taken when handlingfertilizers to minimize exposures.
In the case ofaffliction, pesticides produce acute health effects when signs and symptoms ofpoisoning occur shortly after exposure, normally within 24 hours. These effectsmay be either local or systemic. Local effects are those that occur at thepoint of contact, as is the case with skin and eye irritation. Systemic effectsrequire absorption and distribution from the entry point to other parts of thebody. Also reproductive effects may occur due to either paternal or maternalpesticide exposure. Exposure may affect the sexual function and fertility ofboth men and women.
Exposure by either parent before conception or maternalexposure during pregnancy or breast-feeding may adversely affect thedevelopment of the offspring.Also, someveterinary products including veterinary medicines have toxic properties andworkers who handle these products may be exposed to them. Care should be takenwhen handling veterinary products to minimize skin exposures.
In addition, Animal emissions, such as ammonia and methane,are eye and respiratory irritants, so care should be taken when workers enterclosed spaces.Furthermore to what have been mentioned, exhaustfrom fuel-powered equipment, including diesel, is a significant respiratoryhazard and worker exposure should be minimized. Gases formed during cropstorage can be toxic and may pose a risk to workers in confined spaces. Inhalationis an important route of exposure when working with volatile compounds or inenclosed spaces such as greenhouses. Gases and vapors are readily inhaled andabsorbed in the respiratory tract. Small particles (10 microns or less),including water droplets can also be inhaled.
Pesticides can volatilize fromtreated leaves and soil, posing a hazard to re-entry workers. Care should betaken to ventilate such spaces prior to entry, and to wear proper respiratoryprotection.4.? Dusts and other particulatematter and other biological exposuresAgriculturalproduction involves the generation of a variety of dusts and biological exposuresthat present potential hazards to the health of workers. These include dustsand other particulate matter, animal waste, zoonoses, needle-stick injuries,bites and stings as well as vector-borne diseases in the agricultural environment.Dusts are generated in the production of various grains, legumes and otherfield crops. Dusts are most frequently generated during such processes aspreparing seed for planting, harvesting, cleaning, primary processing, baggingand transporting crops to market.
Dusts may include components such as straw,bagasse, husks of grain, mold fungaland bacterial residues, bioaerosols, endotoxin, pesticide residues, fumigants,and particles of silica. The above listing is illustrative and non-exhaustive. Other forms of dusts are associated with theproduction of birds, swine and other livestock, which may take place in outdoorand/or indoor production facilities. Such dust may include particles of strawand grain, fecal matter, bacteria, micro-toxins, endotoxin, molds, fungi, animalhair, feathers, pollen and other substances. Theinhaled particles may be very small – less than 100 microns in size – andtherefore may be capable of penetrating to the deepest levels of the lungs andcausing a variety of breathing problems. The lungs of workers can be affectedby exposure to harmful agents through acute (short-term) injury to the lung, orthe development of long-term injury such as chronic obstructive pulmonarydisease, asthma, organic dust toxic syndrome, and acute allergic alveolitis,also known as “farmer’s lung”.
The eliminationof dust from agricultural environments presents a formidable challenge. Totalelimination may prove difficult, particularly in outdoor environments.Engineering controls can greatly reduce the level of dust and other suspendedparticulate matter, particularly in enclosed environments. Employers shouldensure that livestock waste storage and holding facilities are physically separatefrom animal and bird confinement houses. Such facilities should be designed andconstructed in such a manner as to prevent aerosolation of aqueous matter,dust, or other particulate.
Employers should ensure that gas and particulatelevels in livestock and poultry confinement houses and similar facilities areas low as practicable and are consistent with national standards and practice.As can be seen by the following table, maximum allowable exposure levels forammonia and hydrogen sulphide gases are quite well defined and are fairlyconsistent within and between jurisdictions. It can also be seen that maximumallowable exposure levels for grain dust which had been set at 10 mgm3time-weighted average in Canada and OSHA USA, are now recommended at 3 or 4mgm3 time-weighted average by the State of California and the AmericanConference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists. It should also be noted thatin the Netherlands a maximum level for endotoxin is being considered. Inaddition, maximum exposure levels for grain dust may not be appropriate foranimal housing facilities because the dust in those houses contains in additionto grain dust, significant concentrations of other substances such as endotoxinand bacterial products, the effects of which may be magnified by coexistingammonia and hydrogen sulphide.
Significant effects on the respiratory system inhumans have been shown at total dust levels as low as 2 mgm3.5.? NoiseNoise is aserious occupational hazard to those who work in agriculture. The less exposureto noise, the better. Hearing loss may result from a single intense exposure orcumulative exposure to noise. There are many potential sources of noise onfarms, including tractors, chainsaws, grain dryers and guns, and contact withanimals such as pigs. Exposure to farm equipment or animal production is theprincipal source of noise-induced hearing loss in agriculture.
By comparison,the noise level of a normal conversation is 50–60 dB. For machinery, the best option for reducingnoise is to do so at source through good design. For example, many new tractorsand other farm equipment have been designed so as to emit low levels of noise.The second option is to reduce noise by installing sound-proofed enclosures, acoustic materials or otherengineering measures. If such means are insufficient, hearing protectors shouldbe provided and the amount of time spent in noisy environments limited. Hearingprotectors may also be needed for other agricultural processes, such as workingwith livestock.Hearing damageusually occurs over longer periods of time because of prolonged exposure tohigh noise levels.
Hearing loss may be only temporary after short periods ofexposure to noise, but if workers continue to be exposed to high noise levelsthey will suffer permanent damage to their hearing. Permanent damage can alsobe caused immediately by sudden, extremely loud noises, e.g.
from guns. High noise levels can also be a safety hazardat work, interfering with communication and making warnings harder to hear, andthey can also increase worker fatigue and cause irritability, reducingperformance. Noise isgenerally measured over an eight hours work exposure time.
Work exposureslonger than eight hours will reduce the allowed noise levels for extended timeframes. 6.? VibrationVibration inthe workplace is generally classified as:(a) wholebody vibration, which is transmitted by sitting or standing on vibratingsurfaces, such as when driving tractors and other farm machinery. Prolongedexposure can lead to severe back pain and other musculoskeletal disorders; and(b) hand–armvibration, which is transmitted through the use of hand-held powered equipmentlike chainsaws, brush cutters and hedge trimmers. Prolonged exposure can leadto damage to the hand and arm muscles (hand–arm vibration syndrome), joints andnerves.
Short durationexposure to whole body vibration or to hand–arm vibration may result intemporary disability, but prolonged or repeated exposure leads to permanentdamage. The main concerns are therefore the magnitude of vibration transmittedand the duration of exposure. Exposure to whole body vibration is unlikely onits own to cause injuries, but it can aggravate existing back injuries whichmay cause pain.As with noise,vibration is best reduced or eliminated at source through good design ofequipment.
For example, tractors with in-built suspended cabs or chainsaws withanti-vibration mountings can reduce vibration emission levels significantly.Engineering controls to reduce vibration subsequently may be possible but theseare usually less effective. PPE, such as anti-vibration gloves, is not a substitutefor engineering controls and should only be considered as a last resort.
However, exposure levels will be reduced by spending less time working withvibrating equipment.Common sourcesof whole body vibration include driving or standing on a tractor, all-terrainvehicles or other machinery to perform tasks like baling, drilling, foraging,spraying, ploughing and harrowing. The effects of whole body vibration are madeworse by driving over rough ground or over bumps or potholes. It is alsoexperienced when standing on vibrating platforms, such as mechanical harvestersand motorized tree fruit picking platforms, or working near large machinery,such as milling or threshing machines.
Common sourcesof hand–arm vibration in agriculture are the use of hand-held vibratory toolsand equipment, such as chainsaws, brush cutters or grinders. Other sourcesinclude impact wrenches used in equipment maintenance and repair, chainsaws,brush saws and weed saws, portable fruit, nut or kapok harvesters and vibro-compactors.