Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Workplace Health and Safety Information—Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing

Overview of NEC

In recognition of the Center's excellent performance in agricultural health and safety, NYCAMH has been designated by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) as one of 11 agricultural centers across the country - The Northeast Center for Occupational Health and Safety in Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing (NEC). Serving a twelve-state region from Maine through West Virginia, NEC promotes health and safety research, education, and prevention activities in the high-risk areas of farming, commercial fishing and logging.

In partnership with other NIOSH centers, state and federal agencies, land grant universities, medical centers, and farm groups, NYCAMH/NEC uses injury and illness research findings to develop preventive teaching, educational health screening, demonstrations, and other activities. NYCAMH/NEC's target audience includes the following:

  • Farmers and farm families
  • Agricultural workers
  • High school and college agricultural classes
  • Vocational agriculture teachers
  • Agribusiness and farm organizations
  • Health professionals
  • Engineers and safety specialists
  • Commercial fishermen along the northeastern coastline
  • Farmers and others working in northeastern woodlots
  • Members of the media
  • Policy makers

The NEC carries out research, education and intervention programs that are responsive to problems in Northeastern agriculture, forestry and fishing as identified by ongoing surveillance efforts. Collaborating scientists within the NEC come from a wide variety of backgrounds and from a number of institutions across the Northeast. Areas of particular strength include:

  • epidemiology / surveillance- methodology, farming injury & illness, injury/fatality in fishing & forestry
  • engineering solutions- confined space, tractor overturn, fishing safety, ergonomic interventions
  • social marketing / behavioral science- expansion of ROPS, safety training, evaluation
  • vulnerable populations - community-based, ergonomic efforts- new farmers, immigrant workers, women, children
  • on-the-farm programming- on-site safety inspection/training, on-site community-based participatory

An important component of NEC activities is safety training. A group of NEC "regional trainers" are employed to provide safety expertise and support to farmers in a number of Northeastern states.

The NEC enjoys extensive involvement with the farm community at a variety of levels. Feedback is provided through near-daily trainings and other on-farm activities and contacts with farm families. Many NEC projects have internal farmer advisories. The center's Advisory Board provides substantial grounding in the agricultural community. Outside of New York, NEC is actively participating with the farm communities in other states. Efforts in Vermont include the Vermont Farm Safety Task Force, the Vermont AgriSafe project, safety training and skin cancer screening events and the Vermont "Rebates for ROPS" program. An important partnership with New Hampshire Farm Bureau and the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food focuses upon promoting ROPS rebates, PTO shielding and safety training among NH farmers. In addition to the ROPS rebate partnership in Pennsylvania, NEC skin cancer screening outreach and close collaboration with Penn State in shared outreach endeavors provide much interaction with the PA farm community. Over the past five years effective ties have been gradually built with Connecticut tobacco producers.

Linkage with the farm community goes beyond these programmatic efforts. Half of the NEC staff was raised or currently lives on farms and they remain deeply rooted in the farm community. Injuries are not abstract numbers to us. Within their immediate families and neighbors, staff members have experienced an unfortunate variety of both close calls and significant injuries. Ties to agriculture and agri-business are extensive and longstanding. The single characteristic of the NEC that may distinguish it most from some of its peers among the NIOSH agricultural centers is this deep involvement in the agricultural community, which may relate to NYCAMH's origin in a rural hospital rather than a university. Because of this level of involvement with the farm community, the NEC is well suited to deliver services to the NE region- a region that is generally bereft of occupational safety and health support for its farm families.

Increasingly the Northeastern fisheries are recognized as the most dangerous in the country. Fatality rates for some fisheries approach two-hundred times that of the average American worker. These deaths relate to both vessel losses and a variety of on-deck incidents. In recent years, NEC has been increasingly focusing upon both accurately counting exposures and injuries and also upon testing interventions on fishing vessels that are both feasible and effective.