Economics of Prevention

Economics of Preventing Injuries to Adolescent and Adult Farmers (EOP)

Abstract

Agriculture consistently ranks among the most dangerous occupations in the United States. Every year hundreds of farm workers die from on-the-job injuries.  In 2015 alone, 401 farmers and farm workers died from a work-related injury, resulting in a fatality rate of 19.2 deaths per 100,000 workers, a rate seven times higher than the average fatality rate in the private sector.  Startlingly, many of these deaths occur in the youngest workers.  On average, 113 youth younger than 20 die annually from farm-related accidents.  Most of these deaths occur in youth 16-19 years of age.  Tractors and All-Terrain Vehicles cause the majority of these injuries. Besides the tragic personal costs of losing family members and friends to injury or fatality, there are economic and social losses to take into account.  Every day about 167 agricultural workers suffer from lost-work time due to injuries, many of which become permanent.  These largely preventable events cost time and money, but the collateral damage impacts hundreds of families.  The school is at the center of most rural communities. Proven safety intervention models show that reaching at risk teens and adult farmers where they work and meet is the most effective means of delivering important safety information.

Economics of Preventing Injuries to Adolescent and Adult Farmers(EOP2) used a unique approach to reach at risk teens where they are each day -- in their high school classroom. The crux of this innovative program is a “train the teacher” approach that engages pre-career teachers and future agriculture industry professionals in their graduate school classrooms.  By providing training to recognize and understand occupational risks, hazards, injury prevention strategies, and the social costs of injuries, the EOP2 program equipped these individuals to become safety advocates in their classrooms and communities. The project was innovative by combining farm safety and economics within mandated core content of high school curricula, including agricultural education, using the latest technologies; an immersive 3D game, virtual tractor inspections, interactive online story simulations, interactive Excel TM Cost Tools, digital documentaries, WebQuests and podcasts.  Over the course of the project a total of 426 graduate students were in the EOP2 program.  Of these 311 received the specialized curriculum.  Once graduated, teachers interact with and influence hundreds of students in the course of a school year – impact that extends over the course of many years of their teaching careers. Students in agricultural education classes typically become local community leaders and continue to grow the culture of farm safety in their rural communities.

 

Background

EOP2 was the culmination of over a decade of work by agricultural health and safety researchers at the Southeast Center for Agricultural Health & Injury Prevention. The project grew out of several earlier projects, the Kentucky ROPS Project and the Preventing Farm Injury to Rural Youth project.  Joan Mazur, EOP2 investigator, then a senior researcher on ROPS Project, relayed her experiences living on a farm in rural Washington County, KY.  All the teenagers that got off the bus on her ridge were not in agricultural education classes. Rather they were general education students, some in advanced placement courses on track for college entrance. Yet, they got right off that bus and onto tractors on their farms. The school is at the center of most rural communities. Proven safety intervention models show that reaching at risk teens and adult farmers where they work and meet is the most effective means of delivering important safety information.  Dr. Mazur suggested to reach a larger population of rural youth exposed to farm hazards that farm safety simulation materials be linked to the required state core content standards in high school social studies (economics), math, physics, and English (interview assignments and portfolio writings) classes. With this insight, the strategy to integrate important agricultural safety materials into required high school curriculum was born. Mazur, a professor in Curriculum & Instruction had years of experience working in public schools and took the lead on developing those collaborations.  The crux of the EOP2 strategy is the “training the teacher/training” approach. Training pre-career teachers and agricultural industry professionals while they are in their graduate programs (training the teacher), provides them with the insight, training and curriculum to allow them to later act as safety advocates in their communities and classrooms.  Follow up interviews reveal that future teachers and youth leaders are effective agricultural safety advocates. EOP2 provides these future teachers and other agricultural industry professionals who will have contact with at-risk youth and adult farmers with increased safety awareness, accessible curriculum and a sense of responsibility as change agents in the rural communities in which they will work following graduation.

 

Aims

  • Targeting Agricultural Education programs in the Southeast, increase the number of pre-career professionals trained in the use of online simulations, cost tools, and digital instructional materials that emphasize the cost-effectiveness of injury prevention.
  • Expand access to the Economics of Prevention: Social & Individual Costs course by making it available online in interactive Web formats.
  • Develop and field test new highly-engaging digital intervention products, including an internet game template and virtual tractor inspections that motivate youth at high risk of injury to identify hazards and take preventive measures.

 

Methods

The EOP2 Program used an innovative train-the teachers strategy to promote safety awareness and use of low-cost injury-prevention strategies. Working in college classrooms in Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi and North Carolina, EOP2 investigators presented their specially designed curriculum to pre-career graduate students enrolled in teacher preparation, agricultural economics or other graduate level courses. These students were trained in using the innovative curriculum comprised of digital interactive games, simulations that actively engaged them with farm work and farm life allowing them to make safety decisions when using farm equipment, driving on rural roads, using ATVs or riding horses, interactive Excel cost tools that graphically depicted the individual and social costs of ANY injury; strategies and lesson plans for use in both agricultural education AND general education subjects such as social studies, physics, math and English. All instructional materials were linked to required state core content standards; Next Generation Learning and Technology use supported through the inclusion of digital documentaries, podcasting and use of Web 2.0 databases.

The EOP2 program also included a research component to explore and validate program effectiveness. Using an intervention/control repeated measures design, the study had some classes receiving the online program materials, while other classes served as a control group, not receiving the intervention materials. However, all students completed the pre-intervention Farm and Rural Life Experience (FRLE) demographic measure, and at both the beginning and the end of the semester, also completed the Thinking, Talking and Acting Safely (TTS), stages-of-change measure, and the Farm Safety and Economics (FSE) test.