Unified by a comprehensive planned approach, the projects of the Canadian AgriSafety Applied Science Program are designed to respond to sector need and seize current opportunities to mitigate agricultural illness, injury, and death. Through proven methods of injury reduction in combination with the necessary applied research, the Canadian AgriSafety Program will bring the needed tools, technology and knowledge directly to priority areas in the agriculture industry.

Modern agricultural producing countries are recognizing that control of safety and health issues affecting producers, products, neighbours, and the public is essential to achieving a thriving workforce, excellent products, healthy communities, and maximum financial returns. In no aspect of agriculture are changes being experienced more acutely than in the human resources component. High risk of death, injury, and workplace illness as a result of production exposures are increased by technological changes, altering work exposures, new commodities, and increases in numbers of employed workers, and seasonal and migrant workers. Agriculture is the third most dangerous industry in Canada. In terms of the number of fatalities, it is the most hazardous occupation. Estimates as of 2004 of the economic burden of illness and injury in Canadian agriculture are $465 million annually. There are approximately 1 million persons at direct risk, including family members and employees on 193,492 agricultural production sites, in addition to service, supply, and transportation industries. Between 1990 and 2012, 2,324 men, women, and children were killed, and 1,360 were severely injured each year.

These issues are outlined in our report of the National Consultation "Six Steps to Safety". In brief, these issues include fatal and serious injuries related to machinery and equipment exposures; ninety percent of producers experience musculoskeletal injury; fertilizers and chemicals may cause injury; inhaled dust particles cause severe breathing problems; workplace noise results in long-term hearing loss; whole-body vibration is pervasive and a cause of acute and chronic conditions; confined spaces pose a risk of death due to asphyxiation; infectious diseases are a major threat to human and animal health; large animal production systems are major causes of injury; weather and environment may result in frostbite, cancer, and dehydration; children are particularly vulnerable on farms; older workers have high injury rates; seasonal and migrant workers represent unique safety issues because of language barriers.

Serious gaps exist in the current knowledge base necessary to prevent illness and injury in agriculture in Canada. To date, prevention efforts in Canadian agriculture have focused largely on education, however, it has been demonstrated that education alone is not sufficient to prevent injuries in agriculture. A combination of approaches embodied in a prevention system termed the Hierarchy of Control has proved effective in other industries. The Hierarchy of Control is a recognized preventative practice in the workplace that includes the following six steps: 

1) Identify Hazard

2) Assess Risk

3) Eliminate Hazard

4) Engineering Controls

5) Procedural Controls (including education)

6) Personal Protective Equipment

We have recently demonstrated that when farmers adhere to at least some of the steps in the Hierarchy there is a significant reduction in injuries (Dosman, et al., 2015). The Hierarchy has not been widely used in Canadian agriculture because programs have not been available and because the necessary innovations have not been developed. The projects of the Canadian AgriSafety Applied Science Program have an emphasis on Engineering Controls because it is this step that is often the most effective means of preventing injury and illness when elimination of the hazard is not possible.

The Canadian AgriSafety Applied Science Program is coordinated and administered by Agrivita Canada Inc. For further information about the AgriSafety Program, please contact Program Manager Nadia Smith at 306-966-1648 or by email at nadia.smith@usask.ca.

Reference: Dosman, JA., et al. (2015). The hierarchy of control in the epidemic of farm injury. Journal of Agromedicine, 20:30, 360-369. 


  1. Canadian AgriSafety Applied Research Program: A Program of Research and Development - October 2014 to March 2018. 
  2. National Summit on the Control of Agricultural Injury and Death in Canada - June 2016, Saskatoon. Partners: Agrivita Canada, Canadian Centre for Rural and Agricultural Health, U of S, Centre for Research Expertise in Occupational Disease, University of Toronto. International Panel of Experts led each topic area. Principle issues and topics for applied science research considered in the context of the Hierarchy of Control by stakeholders.
  3. Workplace Safety Meeting - September 2016, Workplace Safety Prevention Services (WSPS), Toronto. Results of Summit taken to Ontario stakeholders.
  4. Publication of Report "Six Steps to Safety" - 2017. Recommendations for research priorities from the National Summit outlined.
  5. Call for Letters of Intent - May 2017. Matching Canadian capability with priority areas. Linking priority areas for scientific research with the best scientific capability in Canada. 
  6. Planning Sessions by research groups - October 2018, Quebec City.
  7. Receipt of Activity Proposals and Peer Review - November 2017 to March 2018


In partnership with provincial governments and private sector organizations, applied research projects in six priority areas have been launched through the AgriSafety Program. Each project is being conducted by a team of experts from across Canada.

Activity 1

Improving Biosecurity and Welfare of Animals during Transportation

New concerns have arisen in the swine sector such as the emergence of the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED) disease that decimated the U.S. pig industry as it causes more than 90% mortality in infected animals. This disease has now found its way into the Canadian industry, with contaminated transport trailers identified as the main route for bringing the disease onto farms. This has brought new stringent biosecurity requirements for complete cleaning and disinfection of all transport trailers, which can best be achieved by integrating design features that enhance ease and effectiveness of cleaning. In addition, public pressure for enhanced animal welfare in food animal production has also increased significantly, driven by recent high-profile cases involving animals during transport. Hence, current trailer designs need to incorporate features such as better control of thermal conditions as well as provisions for drinking water, feed, and overall animal welfare. The development of any major equipment is a continuous process of improvement. In the AAFC-funded 2014-2018 AgriSafety Program, a prototype trailer was designed that addressed the stakeholders' needs and requirements focused on preventing the dispersion of pathogens and protecting the animals from airborne transmissible diseases during transport. This project will continue to improve on the prototype trailer developed in the 2014-2018 AgriSafety Program by integrating newly desired characteristics in response to emerging concerns with new biosecurity risks and animal welfare pressures, thereby enhancing overall health and safety in agriculture.

Activity 2

Development and Assessment of Emerging Green Technologies to Reduce Aerosol Risks and Hazards in Livestock Production

Aerosols in livestock production, including particulate matter (PM), pathogens, microbes (i.e., endotoxins), and viruses impact livestock health, disease transmission, worker health, and overall cost of production. PM is composed of organic substances and contains greenhouse gases, microorganisms, viruses, and other agents that enhance PM biological activity and increase the risk of health effects. Aerosols pose potential health risks to barn workers and community dwellers, with negative economic impacts on the livestock sector. The overarching goal of this project is to reduce dust and microbes in livestock facilities in order to reduce/eliminate risks and hazards for workers and the public, and enhance health and safety in agricultural production, by improving and adapting existing technological advances for application in dust and microbial reduction in livestock facilities.

Activity 3

Fugitive Emissions Following Manure Spreading - Risk Assessment and Engineering Controls

There are significant health and environmental risks associated with the fugitive emissions following manure spreading. Dust, gases, odours, and bioaerosols (e.g. aerosolized human and animal pathogens and antibiotic-resistant bacteria) are present in manure and may potentially be emitted in large quantities following manure spreading on agricultural land. Once airborne, these contaminants may affect the health of workers, animals, and surrounding community dwellers, and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. However, there is a lack of knowledge on airborne contaminants associated with manure spreading and the risks are not well understood. Once the risks are quantified, solutions limiting emissions from manure spreading can be put in place to protect the health of workers, animals, neighbours and the environment. The overall goal of this project is to assess the risks associated with manure spreading and determine the best strategies and technologies to mitigate these risks.

Activity 4

Developing Strategies to Minimize Health Risks in Next Generation Livestock Buildings Integrating Modern Animal Welfare Considerations

The increasing public concern for animals to be raised, transported and slaughtered humanely is pushing the livestock sector progressively towards improved animal welfare for farm animals in Canada. However, these alternatives may increase the risks for worker and animal health. The project aims to bring available, efficient and cost-effective management strategies that can be easily adopted by the livestock sector. The strategies suggested will focus on the use of the technology and techniques already in place. This proposed study is based on two premises: (1) the new practices and techniques related to the animal welfare will negatively affect the air quality and increase health risks for workers and animals; and (2) newly developed practices and techniques to reduce airborne contaminants will improve the air quality for human workers and improve animal welfare standards. This project will result in identifying the best strategies and optimizing technologies for protecting worker health in relation to air quality in livestock production facilities which have adapted to emerging animal welfare standards.

Activity 5

Take a Break from the Shake: Farm Machinery Operator Interventions

Machinery-related injuries are the most common type of farm injury and fatality, leading to human cost, healthcare costs, and productivity loss in the agricultural sector. In terms of impact, whole-body vibration (WBV) and prolonged sitting are a hallmark exposure for many types of machinery: tractors, sprayers, swathers, combines, ATVs, grain trucks, utility vehicles, construction vehicles, earth-moving equipment, and forestry machines. As machinery operation is ubiquitous in all sectors of Canadian agriculture, this project has the potential to make a positive impact on producers across geographic expanse of Canada and over a broad range of commodities. Because dampening vibration exposure reduces only part of the hazard of machinery operation, and cost and accessibility hurdles are barriers to upgrading equipment with vibration-dampening seats, activity breaks provide an attractive alternative which, if shown to be effective, could be implemented at any type of farm, and with any type of machinery.

Activity 6

Roll Out of Low Cost Farmer-Built ROPS into National Program

Tractor rollovers are the main cause of death on Canadian farms. Roll-over Protective Structures (ROPS) are known to fully protect operators in tractor rollovers (with seat belts 99% effective). Many deaths occur on older tractors because owners cannot justify the cost of ROPS (~$2,000) or cannot source ROPS for their older tractor. This program has the potential to significantly reduce farm fatalities by providing ROPS for older tractors at a cost of ~$200, thus filling a major gap. In this project, we will extend our engineering research to develop blueprints suitable for the majority of older tractors currently in use in Canada and follow this with an extensive pilot roll-out that will define the parameters for a National ROPS Program. The farmer-built ROPS roll-out will complement CASA activities and their proposed original equipment manufacturer/after-market ROPS project. The potential economic benefits are very significant. Equipping these tractors with ROPS will save lives and the economic burden associated with fatalities from tractor rollovers. This project will produce, through applied science and research, the expected result of further developing an existing pre-commercial agricultural product and a new process for implementation of the product.

Knowledge Transfer

Knowledge transfer for Activities 1 - 6

Knowledge transfer is an essential piece of the research puzzle that brings together knowledge, innovation and products from applied research. Agriculture presents a unique challenge for knowledge transfer (KT) efforts with such a great diversity of industry organizations, producers and policymakers. To move agricultural safety practices and applications forward it is essential for the transfer of this knowledge from research into practise in order to develop new processes and ways of thinking. There is an existing gap in research-to-practice that knowledge transfer efforts will aid in bridging in the field of agricultural health and safety in Canada. 

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