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Evaluacin de riesgos ocupacionales de los obreros cafetaleros de Caitas
Occupational risk assessment of coffee workers in Caitas
An exploratory study to assess the work related occupational and environmental risks to workers in the coffee farms in Caitas.
Un estudio exploratorio para evaluar el trabajo relacionado con riesgos ambientales y ocupacionales.
Agricultural laborers--Costa Rica--Guanacaste--Caitas
Coffee plantation workers--Costa Rica--Guanacaste--Caitas
Community Health 2003
Lee, Bradford William
t Community Health
OCCUPATIONAL RISK ASSESSMENT OF COFFEE WORKERS IN CAITAS Luis Duarte Keith Farrell Bradford William Lee Maurice Magana Bonnie Young Field Methods for Community Health Monteverde Institute June 21 to August 3, 2003
Research Summary: Occupational Risk Assessment Team Background A group of five students from the Monteverde Institute conducted a study of the occupational health risks faced by the cafetaleros (coffee farmers) in the Caitas region of Guanacaste in Costa Rica. The studen ts came from diverse backgrounds, representing several universities and two countries. Luis Duarte is a Parasitological and Bacteriological Chemist with a background in environmental engineering who has worked as Head of the Department of Environmental He alth for the State of Chihuahua in Mexico. He is currently a member of the Asociacin Fronteriza Mxico Estadounidense de Salud (US Mexico Border Health Association). Keith Farrell is a Registered Nurse currently pursuing dual Masters degrees in Adult He alth Nursing and Public Health at the University of South Florida. His area of interest is occupational and environmental health. Bradford William Lee is a senior biochemistry major at Harvard University and is a native of Hawaii. He plans to pursue his MD and MPH degrees and is interested in practicing medicine and working in the field of international health. Maurice Magaa is pursuing his B.A. in Anthropology at the University of South Florida. His primary areas of interest are medical and biologica l anthropology, and he has a strong interest in the impact of globalization on the health and political economic rights of indigenous peoples of Latin America. Bonnie Young recently completed her B.S. in Anthropology and Environmental Studies at Santa Cla ra University. She hopes to pursue her M.A. and PhD in Medical Anthropology and Environmental Studies with a focus on Latin American ethnomedicine. Introduction The study was designed to address concerns expressed to the Monteverde Institute by local in stitutions regarding occupational risks associated with agricultural work in the region. Institutions providing input regarding the project included CoopeSanta Elena, el Ministerio de Agricultura and la Unin de Pequeos Agriculotores Nacional. The five members of the occupational health group conducted the study between June 21, 2003 and July 30, 2003 on family owned coffee farms in the Caitas region of Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Purpose The exploratory study assessed the work associated occupational and environmental risks faced by cafetaleros in Caitas with the goal of developing strategies to reduce these risks. Methods The study was conducted through literature reviews and a series of structured interviews with cafetaleros on their farms in Cai tas. Names of the farmers were obtained from lists provided by the Coope Santa Elena, and interview teams of three students conducted a total of nine interviews over a three day period. After obtaining verbal informed consent from each farmer,
the interv iew questions were administered by a native Spanish speaker with answers recorded by a conversational Spanish speaker. The third member of the team with limited Spanish language skills recorded critical observations of the interview scene and took photogr aphs of pertinent Interview questions gathered demographic information on family members working on the farm as well as information about hired workers, farm size, and other crops grown. Types of o ccupational risks faced by coffee workers were addressed in detail, as were suggestions for injury prevention. Each interview lasted approximately 30 45 minutes. Quantitative and qualitative data analyses were performed with Microsoft Excel, and results were presented via a poster presentation at the Monteverde Institute. In addition, a round table discussion was held for study participants and other interested community members. During this presentation, study results were shared and audience input was solicited regarding the plausibility of implementing suggested interventions to reduce occupational injuries among coffee workers. Results Farm sizes ranged from 1/3 hectare to 14 hectares, and family sizes ranged from 1 5 members. Most of the farmers reported hiring non family workers at least part of the year for harvesting, planting and cultivating, with the number of hired hands ranging from 0 20. Three of the nine farms grew other crops besides coffee, with the most common crops being vegetables, corn, and beans. Data obtained during the study indicated that the top injuries experienced by cafetaleros in and skin irritation from dermal exposure to chemi cal fertilizers; pesticides and herbicides sprains and strains from falls on the often steep inclines of the coffee farms. The most commonly perceived risk for coff ee workers were machete cuts, and the most common injury actually experienced were chemical related injuries. Interviewees also offered several ideas on how to reduce hazards on the farms and how to better protect workers from occupational risk. The most commonly suggested idea was for laborers to work more slowly and carefully to prevent cuts and falls. Many felt that the use of specialized equipment for the application of chemicals to their crops would reduce their exposure to chemical burns and intoxi cation. However, they also admitted that such equipment would be prohibitively expensive. Several of the cafetaleros felt that terracing coffee fields would greatly reduce the risk of falls on the steep hills, but again they pointed to cost as a limiting factor. Conclusions Interestingly, despite the often serious nature of injuries reported by the cafetaleros, none of the interviewees reported losing significant time from work due to injuries. Machete cuts of the hands and extremities were more ofte n than not considered nuisances, and crude first aid was
self administered in the field to allow workers to finish out their workdays before seeking proper treatment. Back and extremity pains were considered routine, unavoidable injuries for coffee worker s, and symptoms of musculo skeletal injuries were generally shrugged off by workers. Several interviewees showed chemical burns of the extremities to the interviewers but expressed little concern for their exposure to the dangerous chemicals. Although ex pensive, interventions such as terracing and purchasing specialized equipment for chemical application are possible ways of addressing some of the major hazards of coffee farming. The wearing of high top supportive work boots could reduce the incidence of ankle injuries and falls on the steep hills. Acknowledgements The authors of the study would like to thank the cafetaleros of Caitas for their participation in this study as well as CoopeSanta Elena, the Ministerio de Agricultura, and the Unin de Pe queos Agricultores Nacional, all of whom provided valuable information to the researchers. Additionally, Gaudy Picado and Milena Barrientos offered very helpful insight on the local dynamics of coffee farming. Finally, the authors would like to thank th e faculty and staff of the week stay in Costa Rica. Limitations of the Study This study was conducted over a six week period with the actual interviews taking place over three days. There were several limitations encountered throughout the research. One of the biggest constraints involved the limited sample size of our population. Furthermore, there was a restrictive factor on the breadth of our study due to the li mited time frame. The language barrier was also a restriction on the depth of understanding of each interview. Although one fluent Spanish speaker was always present, there were issues that arose from cross cultural meanings within the two countries repr esented. Recommendations for Future Studies From our own research, we have developed several ideas for further studies to assess occupational and environmental risks within the Guanacaste region. Increasing sample size by expanding the scope of our stud y to surrounding towns within the area would be useful for comparative purposes. Specifically, a comparison could be made between the practices of Caitas growers to those in the neighboring La Cruz community whose occupational safety and environmentally friendly practices have been anecdotally reported to the research team. We also suggest interviewing all members of the family who work on the farm as well as hired hands, especially those who are immigrants. One of the top reported occupational illness could probe whether cold weather and wet conditions are the actual causes of these symptoms or
whether the symptoms may actually be a result of allergies and chemical exposures, both of which can lead to upp er respiratory symptoms. Another recommendation for future studies would be to assess the economic viability of implementing field topography changes such as terracing. Finally, future researchers could compare the costs of medical bills incurred from falling and slipping to the costs of terracing the fields. References article, presented at the Monteve rde Institute. 1994. JOEM, Vol. 43, No. 2, Feb 2001. Espejo Preventico In stituto Nacional de Seguros. No. 15, September 2002: San Jos, Costa Rica. Fregoso, M.T. et al. Unpublished article, presented at the Monteverde Institute. July 2002. Griffith, Katherine Institute. 1996. International Program for the Eradication of Child Labor (IPEC), Internatio nal Labor Organization. Draft report on Child Labor in the Coffee Sector of Costa Rica, 2003. Barrientos, Milena. Personal Interview. IPEC Monteverde. 25 June 2003 and 3 July 2003. Marin, Javier. Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadera, Sucursal Santa Elena. Personal Interview. 4 July 2003. Picado, Gaudy. Personal Interview. 25 June 2003 and 30 June 2003. Webb, Ricardo. Productores de Monteverde. Personal Interview. 4 July 2003.