About Us

About Us

About the Program

The main priority of our program is to train Agricultural Safety and Health (ASH) professionals who can address emerging areas in the field. The ASH program has been focusing on the effects of labor-intensive practices on the musculoskeletal system of farmworkers. This will continue to be an important area of focus in the future, in addition to the emerging ASH topic areas. 

Agriculture has one of the highest occupational non-fatal injury rates for all industries, and California is no exception (CDIR, 2019). California's nonfatal agricultural injury rate stands at 5.3 per 100 full-time workers; the highest among all industries in the state. According to NIOSH, the estimated rate of disabling injuries for agricultural workers is 243 per day, and 5% result in permanent disability (NIOSH, 2014). California estimates that more than 800,000 workers and 120,000+ operators are in fields each year (Martin, 2016; USDA, 2019). Agriculture, including California's, has one of the highest disabling occupational injury rates and cost among all industries (Leigh, Cone, & Harrison, 2001; Leigh, Waehrer, Miller, & Keenan, 2004; Kirkhorn et al., 2010; Fathallah, 2010, McCurdy et al., 2013; Leigh, Du and McCurdy, 2014; Pinzke et al., 2018; NIOSH, 2018). Despite these alarming statistics, this program continues to be the only formal training program in agricultural health and safety in California. 

Goals of the Program

The overall goal of the program is to produce effective agricultural safety and health specialists who will serve California, other areas of Region 9, and United States agriculture as a whole. The program's specific objective is to train at least three doctoral students per year with interdisciplinary skills in agricultural safety and health research and practice.

History of the Program

The alarming statistics on occupational injuries and illness in agriculture highlight a national and regional need for trained professionals in agricultural safety and health that specialize in identifying, understanding, and abating unique and emerging occupational risks and hazards in agricultural environments. Yet, in the US, there are very few academic programs that train doctoral students in agricultural safety and health, and most are in Midwestern or Eastern states (e.g., Penn State University, Purdue University, University of Iowa, University of Illinois, and University of Kentucky). Until 2015, there was no California doctoral program that focused specifically on agricultural safety and health. The Northern California Education Research Center had training programs that covered occupational and environmental concerns in various industries, with none focusing on agriculture. Furthermore, the Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety (WCAHS) has a long history of conducting research on various agricultural safety and health issues, with limited support for graduate students on specific projects; however, there were no formal doctoral training programs in agricultural safety and health. In 2015, NIOSH approved an Agricultural Safety and Health program within the Northern California Education Research Center to fill this void by training doctoral professionals who will serve California, Region 9, and the rest of the United States.

What is Agricultural Safety and Health?

The agricultural health and safety field aims to protect workers in agriculture by conducting research related to the prevention of occupational diseases and injury. Additionally, this field evaluates the technologies used in the sector to prevent illnesses and injuries by implementing intervention programs and offering educational outreach. 

What do Agricultural Safety and Health Professionals do?

Graduates from the ASH program will have training to pursue careers in the agriculture industry, non-governmental organizations, and government agencies, as well as in academic and research institutions.  Their practice ranges from conducting basic and applied research on various agricultural safety and health issues facing the agricultural workers and environments, to developing intervention and prevention programs and tools to improve the safety, health, and wellbeing of agricultural worker populations.