Agriculture is among the most dangerous industries for occupational injury and illness with fatality and injury rates seven times the national average. Within agriculture, animal production is particularly dangerous. The national rate for injury and illness among workers in animal production is 6.9 per 100, compared to 5.3 for all agricultural workers. Latino workers comprise the majority of farmworkers and often experience greater risk, making them a NIOSH priority. Although data on the degree to which Latino farmworkers experience occupational injuries and illnesses is limited, research indicates that Latino farmworkers are at high risk for fatality, injury and illness due to their disproportionate assignment to high-risk tasks; differences in work practices; inexperience; lack of information about health, safety and legal rights; linguistic and cultural barriers in communication and training; lack of enforcement of safety standards; and fears of retaliation associated with reporting unsafe working conditions.
Of the 2 million horse owners in the United States, 238,000 are involved in horse breeding. In 2007, the National Agricultural Statistics Survey reported a national inventory of 4,028,827 horses, 506,503 of which were sold in that year. Nationwide, horse breeding employs 460,000 full-time workers, with Latino and foreign-born workers representing over two-thirds of workers in animal handling and other front-line farm positions. Despite the critical role that horse production plays in many states’ agricultural economies, minimal research has assessed the health risks of its workers.
The few studies that have been conducted on worker health and hazardous conditions have mostly been conducted in foreign settings or with horse trainers or riding instructors. These studies suggest that hazards on horse farms include dusty work environments, animal kicks, bites and falls, and repetitive pulling on upper extremities. Although these studies have contributed greatly to our understanding of hazards present in horse production, none of them looked directly at Latino workers.
Kentucky ranks first in the nation for production of horses and ‘other animals’. As such, Kentucky offers access to a large number of horse farms, workers and supporting organizations.