Expert Report

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The agriculture, forestry, and fishing sectors are the cornerstone of industries that produce food, fiber, and biofuel. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducts research in order to improve worker safety and health in these sectors. This National Research Council report reviews the NIOSH Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing Program to evaluate the 1) relevance of its work to improvements in occupational safety and health and 2) the impact of research in reducing workplace illnesses and injuries. The assessment reveals that the program has made meaningful contributions to improving worker safety and health in these fields. To enhance the relevance and impact of its work and fulfill its mission, the NIOSH Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing Program should provide national leadership, coordination of research, and activities to transfer findings, technologies, and information into practice. The program will also benefit from establishing strategic goals and implementing a comprehensive surveillance system in order to better identify and track worker populations at risk.

Key Messages

  • On the basis of the information provided by the AFF Program, remarks provided by stakeholders, and comments submitted by the public, the committee understands that the AFF Program has not fully engaged its stakeholders.
  • The AFF Program appears to have had considerable difficulty in applying the principles of and engaging in surveillance.
  • The AFF Program targeted specific populations that it deemed at higher risk than others but omitted certain other populations and fell short in defining the entire population of AFF workers at risk of injury and illness.
  • The committee concluded that AFF Program activities or outputs are going on and are likely to produce improvements in worker health and safety, and gave the AFF Program an impact score of 3. That score was merited by the fact that the program has made some contributions to worker safety and health, as seen in the success of projects that have affected children, commercial fishermen, and tractor operators.
  • The lack of consistent leadership, long-term strategic planning, and periodic review of that course has led to a piecemeal approach to the research program, and the program appears disjointed more often than not.
  • The committee assigned the AFF Program a score of 4 for relevance because it found that research has been in high-priority and priority subject areas, and research has resulted in some successful transfer activities.