Migrant and seasonal crop worker injury and illness across the northeast

Am J Ind Med. 2013 Aug;56(8):845-55. doi: 10.1002/ajim.22150. Epub 2012 Dec 27.


Background: Northeast farmworkers are a small, widely dispersed, and isolated population. Little is known about their occupational injury and illness risk.

Methods: Researchers conducted chart reviews in migrant health centers across the Northeast, and calculated incidence-density for agricultural morbidity based on a new method for estimating total worker hours at risk, and adjusting for cases seen at other sources of care.

Results: An estimated annual average of 1,260 cases translated to an incidence of 30.27 per 10,000 worker weeks, (12.7 per 100 FTEs). Straining/spraining events (56% cases) was the most common occurrence (16.8 per 10,000 worker weeks), and lifting (21.5% cases) was the leading contributing factor. Incidence by crop category ranged from 12.95 (ground crop) to 29.69 (bush crop) per 10,000 weeks. Only 2.8% filed for Workers' Compensation.

Conclusion: The predominance of straining/spraining events affecting the back, and their association with lifting suggests that Northeastern farmworker occupational health programs should focus on ergonomics, and specifically on safe lifting.

Keywords: agriculture; farmworker; migrant; musculoskeletal straining/spraining event; occupational; surveillance; surveillance methods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / etiology
  • Agriculture*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Mid-Atlantic Region / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • New England / epidemiology
  • Occupational Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Injuries / etiology
  • Population Surveillance
  • Sprains and Strains / epidemiology*
  • Sprains and Strains / etiology
  • Transients and Migrants*
  • Young Adult