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Current Research

Occupational Safety Management and Leadership on Large-Herd Dairy Farms

Principal Investigator: David Douphrate, PhD, MPT, MBA, The UTHealth School of Public Health in San Antonio
Project Period: 2016-2021
Sponsor: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

Front-line supervisors play an important role on dairy farms because many of them are responsible for implementing and enforcing farm policies. Dairy farm owners are increasingly seeking supervisors who demonstrate effective management and leadership skills, especially in relation to worker health and safety. This project will train front-line supervisors on safety leadership and management and evaluate the program’s effectiveness. The long-term goal is to reduce or eliminate injuries and fatalities on dairy farms. Dairies are being enrolled throughout the Western United States, including Texas, Colorado, Idaho, Washington, and Utah.

Agricultural Safety Education Initiative

Principal Investigator: Michael Pate, PhD, MS, Utah State University
Project Period: 2016-2021
Sponsor: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

Agricultural vehicles and machinery account for 23% of fatal injuries to youth working on U.S. farms. Organizations such as FFA (formerly Future Farmers of America) provide a significant opportunity to provide safety training to youth working in agriculture; an estimated 600,000 students nationwide are enrolled in its school-based agriculture programs. After training agricultural teachers in high schools in Montana, South Dakota, and Utah on agricultural machinery safety, we will assess whether this initiative has improved adoption of safety procedures.

Download the classroom lesson plan materials for ATV/UTV and tractor stability for free from The AET (Agricultural Experience Tracker).

Pate ML, Lawver RG, Smalley SE, Perry SD, Stallones L, Shultz A (2019). Agricultural Safety Education: Formative Assessment of a Curriculum Integration Strategy. Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health, 25(2), 63-76.

Development of Engineering Controls to Reduce Foldable ROPS Overturn Fatalities

Principal Investigator: Paul Ayers, PhD, MS, University of Tennessee
Project Period: 2016-2019
Sponsor: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

Tractor overturns are terrifying and can be potentially fatal for the driver. If the driver wears a seatbelt and operates a tractor with a roll-over protective structure (ROPS), over 95% of these fatalities can be prevented. Some farmers prefer to have the option to fold down the ROPS so that it won’t interfere with low-hanging branches in their orchards or other vertical clearance structure.  Unfortunately the ROPS are left folded down and then do not provide the protection needed in an overturn. This project aims to generate guidelines for the development of mechanical lift assists for foldable ROPS so that they are easier to raise to the upright and pinned position.


Project Update:
This project has been completed. Paul Ayers designed, built, and tested a universal lift-assist lever that allows the operator to raise and lower a foldable ROPS from the operator seat. The design was tested to determine if the lever met appropriate ergonomic standards for operator required force and comfort. The universal lift-assist met all standards as originally designed, with one exception. On heavy ROPS designs, the addition of a torsion spring to the lever was necessary to reduce operator effort below the maximum allowable level of ergonomic engineering standards.


Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Drawings:
Download the CAD drawings to build your own universal lift assist lever for your foldable ROPS. The drawings are available for free here.​


The universal lift-assist lever was designed using public funds from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health/Centers​ for Disease Control and Prevention. As such, these designs are free to use and distribute free of charge. No other entities may make claims of ownership on the design.


Ayers PD, Khorsandi FK, Poland MJ, Hilliard CT (2019). Foldable rollover protective structures: Universal lift-assist design. Biosystems Engineering, 185, 116-125.



Evaluation and Effectiveness of a Nasal Rinse Intervention to Reduce the Pro-Inflammatory Response in Dairy Workers Exposed to Bioaersols

Principal Investigator: Stephen Reynolds, PhD, CIH, FAIHA and Joshua Schaeffer, PhD, Colorado State University
Project Period: 2018-2021
Sponsor: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

Building on previous HICAHS work, Drs. Reynolds and Schaeffer received funding for this project as a competitive supplement to the center’s current five-year grant. The project will further investigate the use of a nasal rinse as a method for preventing respiratory inflammation and illness in dairy workers. Specifically, it will investigate the effect of hypertonic saline on reducing nasal inflammation. This project aims to develop a low-cost, easy to use nasal rinse intervention to be administered before and after a work shift.​​