A farm may consist of a single tract of land or a number of separate tracts which may be held under different tenures. For example, one tract may be owned by the farm operator and another rented. It may be operated by the operator alone or with the assistance of members of the household or hired employees, or it may be operated by a partnership, corporation, or another type of organization. When a landowner has one or more tenants, renters, croppers, or managers, the land operated by each is considered a farm.

The sector distinguishes two basic activities: agricultural production and agricultural support activities. Agricultural production includes establishments performing the complete farm or ranch operation, such as farm owner-operators and tenant farm operators. Agricultural support activities include establishments that perform one or more activities associated with farm operation, such as soil preparation, planting, harvesting, and management, on a contract or fee basis. Excluded from the market sector are establishments primarily engaged in agricultural research and establishments primarily engaged in administering programs for regulating and conserving land, mineral, wildlife, and forest use. These establishments are classified in Industry 54171, Research and Development in the Physical, Engineering, and Life Sciences; and Industry 92412, Administration of Conservation Programs, respectively.

Industries in the crop production subsector grow crops mainly for food and fiber. The classification of agricultural production covers establishments (e.g., farms, ranches, dairies, greenhouses, nurseries, orchards, hatcheries) primarily engaged in the production of crops, plants, vines, or trees (excluding forestry operations); and the keeping, grazing, or feeding of livestock for the sale of livestock or livestock products (including serums), for livestock increase, or for value increase. Livestock, as used here, includes cattle, sheep, goats, hogs, and poultry. Also included are animal specialties, such as horses, rabbits, bees, pets, fur-bearing animals in captivity, and fish in captivity. Agricultural production also includes establishments primarily engaged in the operation of sod farms, cranberry bogs, and poultry hatcheries; in the production of mushrooms, bulbs, flower seeds, and vegetable seeds; and in the growing of hydroponic crops. Note: The data from the OSHA IMIS does not specify the job title or position description of the worker who was sampled. Therefore, the identification of the Exposed Personnel reflects the best judgment of the OHS&E professional.

Farms are the establishment units generally utilized for the purpose of industrial classification of agricultural production. A farm may consist of a single tract of land or a number of separate tracts which may be held under different tenures. For example, one tract may be owned by the farm operator and another rented. It may be operated by the operator alone or with the assistance of members of the household or hired employees, or it may be operated by a partnership, corporation, or another type of organization. When a landowner has one or more tenants, renters, croppers, or managers, the land operated by each is considered a farm.

Overall the classification of agricultural services includes establishments primarily engaged in supplying soil preparation services, crop services, landscape, and horticultural services, veterinary and other animal services, and farm labor and management services.

The classification of forestry covers establishments primarily engaged in the operation of timber tracts, tree farms, or forest nurseries; in the gathering of forest products; or in performing forestry services. Logging establishments are classified in Manufacturing, Industry 2411.

The classification of fishing and hunting and trapping covers establishments primarily engaged in commercial fishing (including shellfish and marine products); in operating fish hatcheries and fish and game preserves; and in commercial hunting and trapping. Establishments that produce agricultural commodities and sell them directly to the general public for personal or household consumption are classified in Major Groups 01 and 02.

Some establishments are primarily engaged in the production of ornamental plants and other nursery products, such as bulbs, florists ‘greens, flowers, shrubbery, flower and vegetable seeds and plants, and sod. These products may be grown under cover greenhouse, frame, cloth house, lath house) or outdoors.

This sector also includes establishments primarily engaged in the production of cows ‘milk and other dairy products and in raising dairy heifer replacements. Such farms may process and bottle milk on the farm and sell it at wholesale or retail. However, the processing and/or distribution of milk from a separate establishment not on the farm is classified in manufacturing or trade. Establishments primarily producing goats ‘milk are classified in Industry. Industries in the Animal Production and Aquaculture subsector raise or fatten animals for the sale of animals or animal products and/or raise aquatic plants and animals in controlled or selected aquatic environments for the sale of aquatic plants, animals, or their products.

The subsector includes establishments, such as ranches, farms, and feedlots primarily engaged in keeping, grazing, breeding, or feeding animals. These animals are kept for the products they produce or for eventual sale. The animals are generally raised in various environments, from total confinement or captivity to feeding on an open range pasture. The industries in this subsector are grouped by important factors, such as suitable grazing or pasture land, specialized buildings, type of equipment, and the amount and types of labor required. Establishments are classified to the Animal Production and Aquaculture subsector when animal production (i.e., the value of animals for market) accounts for one-half or more of the establishment's total agricultural production. All establishments with one-half or more animal production with no one animal product or family of animal products of an industry accounting for one-half of the establishment's agricultural production are treated as combination animal farming classified to NAICS Code - 11299.

As part of this group, there are establishments of licensed practitioners primarily engaged in the practice of veterinary medicine, dentistry, or surgery, for cattle, hogs, sheep, goats, and poultry. Establishments of licensed practitioners primarily engaged in treating all other animals are classified in Industry 0742.

The agricultural services group includes establishments primarily engaged in performing soil preparation services, crop services, veterinary services, other animal services, farm labor, and management services, and landscape and horticultural services, for others on a contract or fee basis. However, feedlots and poultry hatcheries operated on a contract or fee basis are included in Major Group 02. Soil preparation services include establishments primarily engaged in land breaking, plowing, application of fertilizer, seed bed preparation, and other services for improving the soil for crop planting. Establishments primarily engaged in land clearing and earth moving for terracing and pond and irrigation construction are classified in Construction, Industry 1629.

Also included are establishments primarily engaged in performing crop planting, cultivating, and protecting services. Establishments primarily engaged in complete maintenance of citrus groves, orchards, and vineyards are classified in Industry 0762. Establishments providing water for irrigation, or providing both water and irrigation services, are classified in Transportation and Public Utilities, Industry 4971. There are other establishments primarily engaged in performing services on crops, subsequent to their harvest, with the intent of preparing them for market or further processing. Establishments primarily engaged in buying farm products for resale to other than the general public for household consumption and which also prepare them for market or further processing are classified in Wholesale Trade. Establishments primarily engaged in stemming and redrying tobacco are classified in Manufacturing, Industry 2141.

This section also includes establishments that are primarily engaged in providing farm management services, including management or complete maintenance of citrus groves, orchards, and vineyards. Such activities may include cultivating, harvesting, or other specialized activities, but establishments primarily engaged in performing such services without farm management services are classified in the appropriate specific industry within Industry Group 072.

On the other hand, there are establishments primarily engaged in supplying labor for agricultural production or harvesting. Establishments primarily engaged in machine harvesting are classified in Industry 0722. This group also includes establishments primarily engaged in performing a variety of ornamental shrub and tree services.

Another major group includes establishments primarily engaged in the operation of timber tracts, tree farms, forest nurseries, and related activities such as reforestation services and the gathering of gums, barks, balsam needles, maple sap, Spanish moss, and other forest products.

Industries in the Fishing, Hunting, and Trapping subsector harvest fish and other wild animals from their natural habitats and are dependent upon a continued supply of the natural resource. The harvesting of fish is the predominant economic activity of this subsector and it usually requires specialized vessels that, by the nature of their size, configuration, and equipment, are not suitable for any other type of production, such as transportation. Hunting and trapping activities utilize a wide variety of production processes and are classified in the same subsector as fishing because the availability of resources and the constraints imposed, such as conservation requirements and proper habitat maintenance, are similar.

Fish processing plants vary in technology levels, with smaller workplaces relying entirely on manual handling of fish and larger companies using modern highly automated processes. Various processing techniques are used and include heading, degutting, skinning, mincing, filleting, trimming, cooking (boiling or steaming), spice/batter application, frying, fishmeal milling, and bagging. A study of South African workplaces indicated that freezing (71%), cutting (63%), and degutting (58%) ranked the most common. Among the finfish, hake (filleted, fried, spice/batter applied), pilchard (canned), and anchovy (minced into paste and fishmeal production) are commonly processed.

The health problems among fish processing workers have been attributed mainly to safety risks (mechanical and electrical accidents); excessive noise levels and low temperatures; bacterial and parasitic infections; bioaerosols containing seafood allergens, microorganisms, and toxins; and poor ergonomic practices and workplace organization. These commonly result in fatal or non-fatal injuries and occupational diseases such as frostbite and aggravation of Raynaud’s phenomenon; noise-induced hearing loss; skin infection and sepsis; allergic respiratory diseases (rhinoconjunctivitis, asthma, extrinsic allergic alveolitis) and skin conditions (urticaria, contact dermatitis); musculoskeletal cumulative trauma disorders; and stress-related health problems. The reported prevalence of occupational asthma associated with fish processing is 2–8%, and occupational protein contact dermatitis (PCD) and urticaria is 3–11%. Musculoskeletal disorders of the neck and shoulders occur in 31–35% of the workforce, with younger untrained or unskilled women being more adversely affected. The prevalence of epicondylitis and carpal tunnel syndrome is much lower (15%).

The National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) is a partnership program to stimulate innovative research and workplace interventions. In combination with other initiatives, the products of this program are expected to reduce the occurrence of injuries and illnesses at work. Unveiled in 1996, NORA has become a research framework for the Nation and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Diverse parties collaborate to identify the most critical issues in workplace safety and health and develop research objectives for addressing those needs.

NORA groups industries into ten sectors using North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes. The Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing (AgFF) Sector encompasses the NAICS code groupings 111 through 115. Activities of this sector include growing crops, raising animals, harvesting timber, and harvesting fish and other animals from farms, ranches, or natural habitats (Executive Office of the President OMB, 2007). The NORA AgFF Sector Council made the decision to also include seafood processing (NAICS code 311710), which generally occurs onboard commercial fishing vessels. The AgFF sector does not include wildland fire fighting, which is part of the NORA Public Safety sector. Participation in NORA Councils is broad, including stakeholders from worker organizations, universities, large and small businesses, professional societies, and government agencies. Councils are co-chaired by one NIOSH representative and another member from outside NIOSH.

Farm machinery is a leading source of fatalities and injuries in agriculture accounting for 23–50% of fatalities and approximately 50% of hospitalizations from nonfatal injuries (Jawa et al., 2013). Animal-related accidents are another main source of fatalities and injuries in agriculture (Browning, Westneat, Sanderson, & Reed, 2013). In 2014, the leading source of injuries for household working youth were vehicles while the leading source of injury for both household non-working youth and visitors were animals (NCCRAHS, 2016).

Although fatalities in agriculture production have decreased since the 1990s, the number of fatalities in agricultural confined spaces annually has fluctuated from 33 in 1992-1996, to 54 in 2010, to 31 in the 2010-2014 period. Grain entrapment and engulfment represent 50% of agricultural confined space incidents (Issa, Field, Schwab, Issa, & Nauman, 2017).

Farmers and farm workers are exposed to several environmental and occupational hazards. They are exposed to respiratory hazards including organic and inorganic dusts, gases in confined animal feeding operations, bacteria and endotoxins, nitrogen dioxide from silo gases, and agrochemicals (e.g. pesticides, antibiotics) (Holguin & Schenker, 2017). Livestock farmers and farmworkers have an increased risk of respiratory illnesses including chronic bronchitis, COPD, and reduced lung function (Eduard, Pearce, & Douwes, 2009; May, Romberger, & Poole, 2012).

Their work encompasses the full range of identified musculoskeletal injury risk criteria including force, repetition, duration, posture, and metabolic factors. Several studies have shown an increased risk of developing work-related musculoskeletal disorders among agricultural workers compared to other occupational groups (Holmberg, Stiernström, Thelin, & Svärdsudd, 2002; Morse, Warren, Dillon, & Diva, 2007). The annual prevalence of musculoskeletal symptoms among agricultural workers in the United States has been estimated between 40% and 73% (Lee, Tak, Alterman, & Calvert, 2014). Farmworkers are at an increased risk of heat-related since they work outdoors (Kearney, Hu, Xu, Hall, & Balanay, 2016). They are also at risk for developing noise-induced hearing loss (Lie et al., 2016). Hazards for agricultural workers related to animal production include zoonoses and veterinary medications (LeJeune & Kersting, 2010).

Logging workers had the highest fatal work injury rate with 132.7 fatalities per 100,000 workers in 2015 (BLS, 2015). In mechanized logging, the highest accident rate results from equipment maintenance and repairs and manual logging of remote areas. In semi-mechanized logging operations, the majority of accidents are often caused by chainsaws (Albizu-Urionabarrenetxea, Tolosana-Esteban, & Roman-Jordan, 2013; Shaffer & Milburn, 1999). Falls and being struck by or against an object are the main causes of injury in the logging process (Albizu Urionabarrenetxea et al., 2013; Quandt et al., 2013). Falls can occur when body parts are pinned between logs or equipment whereas struck by injuries can occur from falling trees branches, rolling logs, or kickback from power saws (Quandt et al., 2013).

Commercial fishing continues to be one of the most dangerous industries in the US. During 2000–2015, an annual average of 42 deaths occurred (117 deaths per 100,000 workers over the period) (BLS, 2016b). Data from the Commercial Fishing Incident Database (a surveillance system managed by NIOSH) reveal that from 2000 through 2015, the majority of the deaths occurred after a vessel disaster (defined as a sinking, capsizing, or other events in which the crew was forced to abandon ship) or a fall overboard. However, the Gulf of Mexico fishing region had more fatalities caused by falls overboard than by vessel disasters (Lincoln & Lucas, 2010).

The following table represents only the potential occupational health concerns related to the entire industry based on a job task or work activity, and any related OSHA standards for regulatory compliance. The information presented does not indicate or suggest a relative risk of exposure based on the location within the table nor provides any exposure information. Health risks associated with fatigue, working long hours, stress living away from home, and other psychosocial disorders are not addressed.

The focus of this information is to provide guidance to understand the occupational health hazards from chemical substances, physical and biological agents, radiological, ergonomic, and environmental hazards from exposure to plants and animals. Potential occupational health exposures in this industry were derived from the OSHA Integrated Management Information System database between 1984 to 2020. Additional information was obtained from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Health Hazard Evaluations performed by request of employee representatives and organizations from 1978 to 2020.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images.

Worker Exposure Profiles in Food and Kindred Products

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