Occupational injury and illness among migrant and seasonal farmworkers in New York State and Pennsylvania, 1997-1999: pilot study of a new surveillance method

Am J Ind Med. 2003 Jul;44(1):37-45. doi: 10.1002/ajim.10233.


Background: Traditional worksite injury surveillance methods are often ineffective for Northeastern farms employing seasonal harvest labor. Many are small farms, exempt from mandatory injury reporting. The high proportion of foreign workers and the temporary nature of the work further discourages reporting. Therefore, an alternative migrant health center-based occupational injury and illness surveillance system was piloted during 1997-1999.

Methods: Anonymous medical chart data from nine migrant health centers and four regional hospital emergency rooms was collected during 1997-1999.

Results: There were 516 injury/illness cases over two seasons. Joint/muscle straining (31%), falling (18%), poison ivy contact (10%), and object strikes (8%) were most common injurious events. The participation rate of health care was 75%; 130 cases were reported by hospital emergency rooms; and optimal health center participation was associated with: being a farmworker-dedicated program, and including the chart reviewer in the health center's decision to participate.

Conclusions: Further development of a medical records-based surveillance system should include hospital emergency rooms and focus on identified health center performance factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / statistics & numerical data
  • Adult
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Community Health Centers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Dermatitis, Toxicodendron / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Records / statistics & numerical data*
  • New York / epidemiology
  • Pennsylvania / epidemiology
  • Pilot Projects
  • Population Surveillance / methods*
  • Seasons
  • Sprains and Strains / epidemiology
  • Transients and Migrants / statistics & numerical data*
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / epidemiology