This paper summarizes "Respiratory Issues in Confined Feeding Operations," a panel discussion at the Agricultural Safety and Health Council of America/National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health conference, "Be Safe, Be Profitable: Protecting Workers in Agriculture," Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, January 27-28, 2010. Occupational exposure to confined animal feeding operations is associated with cough, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Published data shows that 20% to 40% of hog confinement workers experience such symptoms, although most are able to continue working in this industry. Endotoxin is one component of hog barn dust that is associated with respiratory disease in workers. Endotoxin levels on cattle feedlots can also be in the range linked with occupational lung disease. The cattle industry has not yet prepared guidance documents for producers, in part because much less is known about the prevalence of lung disease in its workers. However, the pork industry provides information for pork producers on reducing their respiratory health risks through a multifaceted approach, including the use of respirators. Some jobs cannot be done safely without respiratory protection, such as entering manure pits. It is less clear for other jobs when respirators should be worn. Use of respiratory protection should be considered but not mandated for all persons working in close proximity to livestock in dusty conditions. A respiratory protection program may also serve as a cost effective biosecurity measure to protect animals from human pathogens such as influenza virus. Proper design and management of barn ventilation systems is critical for maintaining temperature and humidity levels for optimal animal growth; as well as decreasing the level of gases and respirable dusts. The pork and the cattle industries support occupational health and safety; however, the governmental guidance and recommendations for such programs are limited for the agricultural industries as a whole. The industries should lead the way in the effort to improve respiratory protection for workers. Overall, a team approach that includes input from managers, workers, and veterinarians is important for the reduction of respiratory hazards on livestock farms.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health