An estimate of the U.S. government's undercount of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses in agriculture

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Background: Debate surrounds the accuracy of U.S. government's estimates of job-related injuries and illnesses in agriculture. Whereas studies have attempted to estimate the undercount for all industries combined, none have specifically addressed agriculture. Methods: Data were drawn from the U.S. government's premier sources for workplace injuries and illnesses and employment: the Bureau of Labor Statistics databanks for the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII), the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, and the Current Population Survey. Estimates were constructed using transparent assumptions; for example, that the rate (cases-per-employee) of injuries and illnesses on small farms was the same as on large farms (an assumption we altered in sensitivity analysis). Results: We estimated 74,932 injuries and illnesses for crop farms and 68,504 for animal farms, totaling 143,436 cases in 2011. We estimated that SOII missed 73.7% of crop farm cases and 81.9% of animal farm cases for an average of 77.6% for all agriculture. Sensitivity analyses suggested that the percent missed ranged from 61.5% to 88.3% for all agriculture. Conclusions: We estimate considerable undercounting of nonfatal injuries and illnesses in agriculture and believe the undercounting is larger than any other industry. Reasons include: SOII's explicit exclusion of employees on small farms and of farmers and family members and Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages's undercounts of employment. Undercounting limits our ability to identify and address occupational health problems in agriculture, affecting both workers and society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)254-259
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of Epidemiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2014


  • Crops
  • Job-related injuries
  • Livestock

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


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