Workers in Minnesota’s agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting industry regularly put themselves in harm’s way. Many people might be surprised to hear these jobs are actually among the most dangerous in the state.

According to the most recent data from the Department of Labor and Industry, that industry sector saw the most workplace fatalities in 2018. It also had the second-highest injury and illness rate of all industries in the state.

Specific injury and illness risks

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) operates research programs at the federal level. These programs are meant to advance our understanding of certain types of dangers workers face, with the goal of ultimately reducing these risks.

For the agriculture, forestry and fishing industry sector, this NIOSH program includes five areas of focus:

Cancer, reproductive, cardiovascular, and other chronic disease prevention: Pesticide exposure and neurologic disorders, as well as kidney diseases

Immune, infectious, and dermal disease prevention: Skin and body exposure to pesticides and infectious disease transmission

Musculoskeletal health: Repetitive motion issues and vibration exposure

Respiratory health: Fixed airways diseases, such as COPD

Traumatic injury prevention: The risk of suffering a traumatic injury among high-risk populations

Specific examples of risks

The NIOSH research program includes data used to pinpoint the specific dangers these workers face.

For example, studies show farm machinery causes about half of all hospitalizations among agriculture workers. These machines are also a leading cause of deaths among farm workers. Those in the logging industry that maintain and repair machines face a similarly high level of injuries.

Similarly, the risk of repetitive motion injuries, sprains, strains and tears, and even fractures is higher for those doing the type of physical labor often required for these jobs.

This is an industry that can take an immense physical toll on its workers. Not only do the numbers prove it, those in these fields can likely attest to that fact as well.