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Avoiding Dust Hazards in Agriculture

Harbor America - Aug 14, 2019, 1:05:00 PM

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While we have already explored the importance of prioritizing respiratory protection for safeguarding employees from exposure to airborne contaminants while on the job, we wanted to dive in a little further on organic dust toxicity syndrome (ODTS) in the agriculture industry.

Agriculture is “defined as embracing all forms of activity connected with growing, harvesting and primary processing of all types of crops; with breeding, raising, and caring for animals; and with tending gardens and nurseries.”[1] As one of the oldest activities known to man, agriculture is one of the more common professions around the world.

While the notion of farming brings wide open, rolling fields and clean, fresh air to mind, the reality is that farming is filled with potential respiratory hazards, including dust. Dust can appear in any work setting, including:

  • Mineral dust from mineral processing
  • Chemical dust from bulk chemicals and pesticides
  • Vegetable dust and pollen from wood, flour, cotton, or tea
  • Mold and spores

Workers who are most likely to become exposed to work-related dust include those who are “[exposed] to soil, intensive animal husbandry, dry vegetable products, or agro-chemicals.”[2] This organic dust (dust that comes from hay, grain pesticides, chemicals, feed and bedding particles, or hair, feathers, and droppings “can lead to congestion, coughing or wheezing, sensitivity to dust, and frequent infections, such as colds, bronchitis, and pneumonia.”[3]

The best ways to prevent prolonged dust exposure or limit the amount of inhaled dust particles are:

  • Wear proper respiratory protection or personal protective equipment at all times.
  • Supply and regularly employ automated equipment to maneuver materials with high organic dust content.
  • Use proper wetting techniques when moving or working with feed, cleaning grain bins, or any dusty surface or container.
  • Ensure ventilation systems are well maintained in barns and silos to minimize worker exposure to dust.

Harbor America approaches safety as a crucial business element. Contact us to learn more about our wide range of accident prevention and OSHA compliance resources, including respiratory safety and procedures for avoiding dust hazards.    

[1] American Thoracic Society: Respiratory Health Hazards in Agriculture

[2] World Health Organization: Hazard Prevention and Control in the Work Environment

[3] United States Department of Labor: Youth in Agriculture: Organic Dust

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