Multidisciplinary Network to Address Agriculture Worker Health and Safety Issues

Project Description

Dates: 2012 – current

The goal of the UMASH Network Project is to develop a functional, multidisciplinary Network to address occupational health and safety issues among livestock workers.  This broad, cross-disciplinary network builds on the group’s diversity of skills, experiences, and knowledge in order to translate research, deliver education, and act as a surveillance stream for emerging occupational health and safety concerns in livestock production.

Establish a network of producers, veterinarians, and health and safety experts (health care, insurance industry, and  public health) to implement interventions and identify emerging occupational health and safety issues in livestock workers.

2015 Project Update
UMASH Network Project continues to successfully engage our varied stakeholders interested in agricultural safety and health and to provide educational materials to support this objective. From Fall of 2014 until Summer 2015, our group has continued to work in the areas livestock worker health, immigrant worker health, agriculture safety and health education, and agricultural worker compensation data.

Our Project staff has been actively involved in livestock worker health programs. Some highlights include:

  • Production and placement of 4 bi-lingual videos (English and Spanish) on needlestick safety on the NIOSH YouTube Channel. These videos have been shared with educators, veterinarians, industry representatives, livestock owners and workers. Videos have been incorporated into some company training programs as well as training for veterinarians.
  • Manuscript “Needlestick Injuries in Agriculture Workers and Prevention Programs” accepted for publication in the Journal of Agromedicine.
  • In 2015-2016, the team will continue to work on the development of swine and dairy biologics database as a mobile, user friendly tool for rural healthcare providers and poison control staff as a resource for handling potential exposures to various livestock biologics and veterinary drugs. An expert panel will guide content and usability features.


The Network project developed educational posters and a fact sheet on dairy stockmanship or low stress animal handling techniques during the fall of 2014 and winter 2015. The team worked in conjunction with dairy specialists and industry representatives. Activities related to stockmanship include:

  • Dissemination of posters and fact sheets at Farmfest, National Association of County Agricultural Agents, ISASH, dairy farms, UMASH Annual forum, and on the UMASH website.
  • Development of 5 short videos related to dairy stockmanship, to be completed fall 2015. Intended audience is farm workers and students.
  • In 2015-16, there are plans to include a dairy stockmanship marketing campaign and program evaluation.
  • In 2015 and 2016, the team will continue to work with the National Pork Board to review the impact and use of stockmanship training program developed and distributed by the National Pork Board.


To better understand the medical and economic impact of livestock associated injuries, the Network team continues to engage the regional insurance industry, the Minnesota Department of Labor and Statistics to characterize the past 10 years of worker’s compensation claims.

  • Preliminary findings were shared as a poster at the 2015 National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) Symposium.
  • In 2015-2016, manuscripts are being completed for swine related injuries.

In addition, the UMASH Network team collaborated with AgriSafe Network, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences, and the Southern Minnesota Center of Agriculture to host a forum of incorporating health and safety into agricultural curriculum.

  • A review of educational programs in the five-state region of Minnesota (MN), Wisconsin (WI), Iowa (IA), North Dakota (ND), and South Dakota (SD) was conducted. Preliminary data from the internet search was shared with participants.
  • A summary commentary has been jointly written and submitted for publication.

The Network will allow an interchange of ideas and sharing of expertise to solve problems with greater creativity, resourcefulness and speed.

Project Personnel

Photo of Jeffrey B. Bender DVM, MS

Jeffrey B. Bender DVM, MS

Director/CAHFS, Veterinary Population Medicine College of Veterinary MedicineUniversity of Minnesota
Phone: 612-625-6203 Website: View Bio

Photo of Bruce H. Alexander PhD

Bruce H. Alexander PhD

Professor, Division Head Environmental Health Sciences, University of MinnesotaUMASH Center Director
Phone: 612-625-7934 Website: View Bio

Photo of Carol Peterson MEd

Carol Peterson MEd

Project Coordinator School of Public HealthUniversity of Minnesota
Phone: 612-626-0403


No results.

Project Resources

Dairy Worker SurveyDairy Worker Survey

dairy-surveyNot much is known about the level of safety training and the extent of injuries that occur on Minnesota and Wisconsin dairy farms. The purpose of this study was to survey dairy workers regarding their training, experience, and history of recent injuries. Conclusions of the study:

  • Worker injuries are occurring on dairies in Minnesota and Wisconsin
  • Worker safety and injury prevention training is needed
  • Training efforts must consider the changing workforce
  • Some workers may lack farm experience
  • English is often a second language
  • Veterinarians can be key to engage farmers and workers in survey participation and improve response rates
  • Further work is needed to explore the relationship between training and injuries

Forty-six workers completed the survey. The average size herd at the surveyed dairies was 397 cows (range 50-850). Thirty-two (70%) workers were male. The average age of workers was 37 years (range 21 to 67). Nineteen workers (41%) were Hispanic. Twenty-nine workers (63%) grew up on a farm and 12 workers (26%) had no previous livestock experience before their current job. The average years of experience working with cattle were 18.9 years (range 1-58). The most common work tasks among participants were milking (n=35, 76%) and moving animals (n= 32, 70%). Thirty-two workers (70%) received specific task-related training for their job. Task training hours ranged from 0 to 48 hours with a mean of 12 hours. Seventeen (37%) workers received training related to safety and injury prevention. Eleven (25%) of the workers suffered at least one injury in the previous 12 months. Examples of self-reported injuries included: a sprained ankle from stepping in a hole, a bruised leg by being kicked by a calf, and a cut hand from sharp steel.

This project illustrates that worker injuries do occur on Minnesota and Wisconsin dairies. Worker safety and injury prevention training is needed. Training programs should consider limited worker experience and language barriers when developing educational programs.


Publications and Presentations

  • Bender J. Needlestick Injuries in Livestock workers and prevention programs. UMASH Annual Forum. Saint Paul, MN. April 17, 2013.
  • Bender J. Needlestick Injuries in Agriculture Workers. Leman Swine Conference. Minneapolis, MN. Sept 16-17, 2013.
  • Bender J. Worker Hazards From Veterinary Pharmaceuticals and Livestock Medical Treatment. North American Agricultural Safety Summit. Minneapolis, MN. September 25, 2013.
  • Swiggum R, Hourigan M, Bender JB, Cherry C. A Pilot Study of Worker Safety Training and Injuries on Small to Medium Sized Dairies in Southeastern Minnesota. North American Agricultural Safety Summit. Minneapolis, MN. September 25, 2013.
  • Buswell M, Hourigan M, Nault A, Bender J. Needlestick Injuries in Livestock Workers and Prevention Programs. North American Agricultural Safety Summit. Minneapolis, MN. September 25, 2013.
  • Buswell M, Hourigan M, Nault A, Bender JB. Needlestick Injuries in Agriculture Workers and Prevention Programs. Points of Pride, College of Veterinary Medicine. Saint Paul, MN. October 2, 2013.
  • Buswell ML, Hourigan M, Nault A, Bender J. Needlestick injuries in livestock workers and prevention programs. National Occupational Research Agenda. May 1, 2014.
  • Cherry C, Swiggum R, Hourigan M, Bender J. Worker safety training on dairies in southeastern Minnesota and Western Wisconsin. National Occupational Research Agenda. May 1, 2014.
  • Swiggum R, Hourigan M, Bender JB, Cherry C. A pilot study of worker safety training and injuries on small to medium sized dairies in southeastern Minnesota. National Occupational Research Agenda. Minneapolis, MN. May 1, 2014.
  • University of Minnesota Stockmanship Training for Dairy workers – (Provided support with Extension – UMASH). Central, MN. August 6, 2014.
  • University of Minnesota Stockmanship Training for Dairy workers (provided support with Extension – UMASH). Northern, MN. August 14, 2014.
  • Alexander B. Worker Health and Safety on Dairy Farms: Successful Dairy Days. Melrose, MN. August 14, 2014.
  • RiverFalls University Stockmanship Training for Dairy workers (provided support with Extension- UMASH. RiverFalls, WI. August 20, 2014.
  • Don’t get stuck – needle stick injuries in veterinary medicine. New York State Veterinary Conference. Ithaca, NY. October 1, 2014.
  • Summary of Agriculture Work Comp injuries at the National Pork Board. Unified Research Meeting – Safety and Health meeting. Orlando, FL. February 1, 2015.
  • Bender J. Workman Comp and Needlestick injury. National Pork Board Meeting. Orlando, FL. February 17 – 19, 2015.
  • Lopez KM, Buswell M, Bender JB. Needlestick Injuries and Veterinary Biologics. Production Animal Medicine Club, University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine. St. Paul, MN. April 8, 2015.
  • Hourigan ME, Haycraft D, Zaidman B, Whitman A, Alexander B, Bender J. Pork Industry Injuries in Minnesota: An Analysis of Workers’ Compensation Data 2003-2012. NORA Symposium. Minneapolis, MN. May 6, 2015.
  • Green DR, Evanson J, Bender J, Alexander BH. Injuries among swine workers related to swine human interactions. 2016 Nora Symposium, May 4, 2016, Minneapolis MN.

Project News