Barriers and benefits of protective eyewear use by Latino farm workers

J Agromedicine. 2006;11(2):11-7. doi: 10.1300/J096v11n02_04.


Agricultural work is one of the riskiest occupations for the eyes. Protective eyewear can prevent eye injuries in upward of 90% of cases. Latino migrant and seasonal farm workers (LFWs) are at particular risk of eye injury because of economic, social, and cultural barriers to safe employment. The goal of this project was to determine the perceived benefits and barriers to use of protective eyewear during agricultural work among LFWs. In the year 2000, 55 workers who spent at least part of their time working in Illinois and Michigan as seasonal, hired farm workers were interviewed either individually (9) or in six focus groups (46) regarding their perceptions of eye hazards and the factors that encourage or discourage the use of protective eyewear. Subsequently, safety glasses and training on eye safety were delivered by promotores de salud to LFWs from the same cohort over two summer seasons. During the second season, the promotores observed the use of safety eyewear by farm workers at least once per week on 17 farms over a three-month period. At each point of observation, the promotores asked those wearing the glasses why they chose to wear them and those who were not wearing them, why not. At both points of the study (pre-intervention interviews and post-intervention observations), the reasons for use fell into the following categories: protection from hazards, appearance, whether it was mandated/provided by the employer, and whether others used it. The reasons for non-use include perceived lack of protection, discomfort, undesirable appearance, interference with visual acuity, slowing down the work pace, and no mandate from employers. Since eliminating the eye injury hazard is not possible in most agricultural settings, administrative strategies and use of personal protective equipment are critical. Perceptions of the target audience, LFWs, should be used to develop a comprehensive eye safety program; this should include allowing LFWs to select a style from effective prototypes, providing eyewear and promoting/mandating its use in hazardous job tasks, and implementing a comprehensive PPE program for eye safety. In addition, addressing functional problems - falling off, fogging, loss and forgetting glasses, the pace slowdown that reduces production and leads to lower wages for workers - should be addressed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Occupational / prevention & control*
  • Accidents, Occupational / statistics & numerical data
  • Agriculture
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Eye Injuries / epidemiology
  • Eye Injuries / prevention & control*
  • Eye Protective Devices*
  • Hispanic or Latino / psychology*
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Occupational Health
  • Risk Factors
  • Safety
  • United States