Agriculture is one of the most hazardous industries in the United States. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety
and Health (NIOSH), 417 farmers and agricultural workers died from a work-related injury in 2016, a rate
of 21.4 deaths per 100,000 workers. Each day, agricultural workers experience 100 non-fatal lost-work-time
injuries. Transportation incidents, including tractor rollovers, were the leading cause of death, but many other
hazards exist on the farm.
Agriculture is different from many industries in that it can present hazards to people not actively involved in
the industry, such as family members living on the farm and visitors, in addition to workers. Additionally,
hazards may exist for emergency medical services personnel and other healthcare professionals as they provide
assistance and care to victims of farm accidents.
This topic guide focuses specifically on the health and safety issues inherent in the agricultural industry.
includes migrant workers hired to work on farms who are included in data relating to agricultural health and
safety. However, if you are interested specifically in the health and healthcare of migrant or seasonal workers,
see RHIhub's Rural Migrant Health topic guide.
Frequently Asked Questions
What chronic and acute health risks are farmers and farmworkers exposed to?
Health risks for farmers and farmworkers include:
Exposure to farm chemicals, such as pesticides and fertilizers, as well as toxic gases which may be
produced from common farm practices like manure decomposition and silo crop storage
Exposure to high levels of dust, which can contain mold, bacteria, and animal droppings, among other
Falls from ladders, farm equipment, grain bins, or other heights
Exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun, which can result in skin cancer
Joint and ligament injuries, which can result in arthritic conditions affecting mobility
Exposure to loud noises and sounds from machinery and equipment which can result in hearing loss
Stress from environmental factors, such as droughts, floods, wildfires, pests, and diseases affecting crops
and livestock, as well as from working long hours, financial concerns, and feelings of isolation and
Risk of suffocation in a grain bin if a person is engulfed by the grain
Risk of heatstroke, frostbite, or hypothermia from working outside in extreme weather conditions
Risk of injury from operating farm equipment and motorized vehicles
Risk of injury from working with livestock
Risk of electrocution to persons operating large equipment that can contact overhead power lines
What are some mental health concerns for farmers and ranchers and their families?
In addition to physical injuries, farmers are also at risk of behavioral and mental health issues such as
anxiety, depression, substance use, and death by suicide. Due to environmental, financial, and social factors,
there are a number of stressors inherent in farming and farm ownership.
In this brief video, experts from national farm organizations discuss the challenges facing today’s farmers,
warning signs of suicide, and how communities can help farmers and their families:
According to a 2014 study of
farmers in Eastern North Carolina, the top three farm-related stress factors were:
- The weather
- Concern over the future of the farm
- Outsiders not understanding the nature of farming
The top three financial stressors were:
- Market prices for your crops/livestock
- Health care costs
The top three social stressors were:
- Not enough time for family
- Distance from doctors or hospitals
- Limited social interaction opportunities
Many of these stressors are common in the agricultural industry and are often out of the individual farmer's
control. These stressors can lead to anxiety, depression, feelings of loneliness, or isolation. Farmers and
agricultural workers suffer from higher rates of suicide. A
2018 study shows that from 1992-2010,
farm operators and workers had significantly higher rates of suicide (0.36-0.95 per 100,000 people) than all
other occupations (0.13-0.19 per 100,000 people). Like much of rural America, farm families have been dealing
with the opioid epidemic. According to a
survey by the American Farm Bureau Federation, 74% of farmers and farmworkers have been directly
impacted by opioids, compared with 45% of rural adults.
One of the programs that can help alleviate the financial stress of farming is the Agricultural
Mediation Program. Funded by USDA through the Farm Service Agency, the Agricultural Mediation Program
works on the state-level to help farmers resolve financial disputes and potentially avoid litigation and
Additional resources to help farmers and agricultural workers find information and support regarding mental
health and substance abuse include:
FarmTownStrong – Provides resources and information for farm
families dealing with the opioid epidemic.
Farm Crisis Center – Provides national and local resources
farmers facing a farming-related, financial, or personal crisis.
Farm Aid's Farmer Resources Network – An
online directory that connects farmers with local resources for a variety of needs.
Mental Health First Aid training to recognize and aid someone experiencing a
mental health crisis may be helpful for community members who regularly interact with farmers, such as:
- Family members
- Government agency personnel
- Staff at local cooperatives and businesses
For information on mental health in rural America more broadly, see the Rural
Mental Health topic guide.
How many children are involved in agricultural injuries? What resources are available
related to preventing farm accidents among children and youth?
According to a 2019
report from the National Children's Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety, every day about
33 children are injured in agriculture-related incidents. Injuries to children that occur while living,
working, or visiting agricultural work environments (primarily farms) are considered agricultural injuries,
whether or not the child was actively involved in farming at the time. Children who might be injured on
farms include youth hired to work on the farm, farm children actively involved in the farming operations,
farm children not involved in farming operations, and even children who are visiting the farm. Hazards for
children on the farm include animals, farm equipment, grain bins, heights, ponds/water, chemicals/gases,
all-terrain vehicles, and many others.
The Childhood Agricultural Injury
Survey is a national survey of farm operators which collects information about youth under 20 living
and working on farms, including any injuries to those children. According to the survey's results,
transportation-related incidents are the leading cause of injury for rural children, followed by falls,
slips, and trips, and contact with objects. The survey's results also reveal that the incidence of injuries
to youth from farm accidents has decreased since 2001.
Selected Childhood Agricultural Injury Survey Data
|Number of Youth (<20) Living and Working on US Farms
|Household (lives on farm)
|Household youth also working on farm (%)
|Estimates of Farm Injuries to Youth (<20) by
|Other working youth
|Injuries to household youth where child was working (%)
|Estimates of Farm Injuries to Youth (<20) by Age
Source: Childhood Agricultural Injury Survey (CAIS) Survey Results; Demographic Tables
and Injury Tables
Fatalities also occur as a result of child farm accidents. According to the most recent data from the National Institute for Occupational
Safety and Health (NIOSH), from 1995-2002 the average number of annual agricultural fatalities for
youth under 20 years of age was 113 youths. The 2019
Fact Sheet: Childhood Agricultural Injuries in the U.S. lists machinery accidents, motor vehicles,
and drowning as the main causes of death.
The following resources provide tips, information, and assistance related to the safety of youth working in
agriculture, as well as those that live on or visit farms:
Youth in Agriculture – Resource
from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) which identifies common agricultural
hazards and provides safety solutions for employers and young workers to prevent accidents and avoid
injury in agricultural related jobs.
Childhood Agricultural Injury Prevention
Initiative – NIOSH resource which raises awareness about childhood agricultural injury, and
develops and encourages the use of prevention strategies.
National Children's Center for Rural and
Agricultural Health and Safety – Provides technical assistance and resources regarding
children and adolescents living in rural areas and working in agriculture and is funded by NIOSH. NCCRAHS
also produces Cultivate Safety, which provides information,
guidelines, and resources about children's farm safety for parents and other responsible adults.
Employment – U.S. Department of Labor information on federal and state labor laws pertaining
Invest in Your Health – AgriSafe
online or onsite course with training materials available to ag educators. Provides lessons and activities
on five key areas of ag health and safety.
Which local agencies can help support the development of an agricultural health and safety program?
Local and county cooperative
extension offices and public health offices often can provide resources to develop an agricultural
health and safety program. Use this directory of local
health departments to find the local public health office in your area. State resources that support
research and education on agricultural health and safety can be found in the Resources section of the OSHA website.
Also, local service clubs and faith-based organizations may provide some assistance with the development of an
agricultural health and safety program.
What federal agencies focus on agricultural health and safety?
Several federal agencies concentrate on agricultural health and safety issues.
The USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Farm Safety program supports Cooperative Extension Service programs
that promote safety by training workers in appropriate field practices, safe use of equipment, and proper
maintenance of equipment.
The CDC's NIOSH Centers for Agricultural Disease and
Research, Education, and Prevention promote the health and safety of agricultural workers and their
families. NIOSH's Agriculture, Forestry, and
Fishing Research Program works to identify long-term safety and health research for production
agriculture. Also, NIOSH's Office of Agriculture Safety
and Health (OASH) sets strategic directions for, supports, and monitors and reports progress on safety
and health research in agriculture.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety & Health
Administration (OSHA) supports safe and healthful working conditions by setting and enforcing standards
and by providing training, outreach, and education.
The Environmental Protection Agency's Occupational
Pesticide Safety and Health program focuses on worker safety in industries that use pesticides and sets
requirements for safe pesticide handling, such as the Agricultural
Worker Protection Standard (WPS).
The Health Resources & Services Administration's Federal
Office of Rural Health Policy offers funding opportunities and resources to support rural health
Are there funding sources available for nonprofits to support agricultural health and safety programs?
The NIOSH-funded Centers for Agricultural Safety and
Health may offer funding opportunities for activities such as pilot programs, research initiatives, and
education and outreach.
The CHS Seeds for Stewardship Grants provide matching grants to cooperatives for
projects designed to develop the next generation of agricultural leaders, improve agricultural safety, and
enhance rural vitality.
As part of Grain Bin Safety Week, the Grain Bin Rescue Equipment and Training
Contest, offers awards of grain bin rescue tubes and hands-on rescue training to selected rural first
A current list of federal, state and foundation grants and programs supporting the development of agricultural
health and safety projects is available by visiting the Funding & Opportunities section of this
What programs or resources are available that can assist agricultural employers to develop safety measures to
protect their employees?
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational
Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) Agricultural Operations provides a variety of resources and
statistics on the hazards of working in agriculture.
The USDA NIFA's Cooperative Extension
System is an educational network providing practical, research-based information to agricultural
producers, small business owners, youth, consumers, and rural communities nationwide.
The NIOSH Centers for Agricultural Disease and Injury
Research, Education, and Prevention conduct research, education, and prevention projects that support
the health and safety of agricultural workers.
The National Center for Farmworker Health is a private, not-for-profit
organization providing information, training, and technical assistance on agricultural safety and health.
The National Education Center for Agricultural Safety provides education
and training focused on promoting safety, and preventing illnesses, injuries, and deaths among farmers and
ranchers, agricultural and horticultural workers, their families, and their employees.
The National Tractor Safety
Coalition is a multi-sector working group with the mission of preventing tractor related deaths in the
U.S. agricultural industry.
The NIOSH Cost-effective Rollover
Protective Structures (CROPS) is a program that provides rollover protective structures for older-model
tractors that are commercially difficult to find.
Are resources available that provide special training to healthcare personnel when treating farm injuries and
In rural areas where agriculture is common, first responders and healthcare personnel must be prepared to treat
agricultural injuries. In addition to providing proper care to the patient, personnel must be able to identify
when hazards exist for themselves. For instance, if EMS personnel respond to a grain bin engulfment, they must
be careful to avoid becoming engulfed. Likewise, if a farmworker presents at the emergency room due to chemical
exposure, proper protocols should be used to ensure that healthcare workers aren't also exposed.
Several national organizations provide training on agricultural medicine to healthcare personnel, including:
The AgriSafe Network participates in agricultural medicine core
courses in several areas in the country, providing the skills necessary for health and safety
professionals to identify and prevent occupational illnesses and injuries among agricultural workers. An
18-hour continuing education course, AgriSafe Nurse Scholar, as well as several additional individual
continuing education courses for nurses, are also available through AgriSafe.
OSHA offers a Clinicians section with information
and resources to aid clinicians working with farmworkers, including information on Evaluating Occupational Exposures and
Injuries for farmworkers.
The Migrant Clinicians Network offers Pesticides
information, with clinical tools to help clinicians recognize and manage pesticide exposure in
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) National Agricultural Center and the Medical University of South
Carolina published the Recognition
and Management of Pesticide Poisonings manual giving healthcare providers a reference source on
toxicology and for treating patients with exposure to pesticides.
The NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards (NPG)
presents information and statistics to inform workers, employers, and occupational health professionals
about hazardous chemicals that may be found in agriculture.