In the U.S., work-related death is an all too familiar occurrence on farms. Tractor overturns continue to be the most frequent cause of these fatalities. Efforts to alter farming’s ranking as one of the most deadly occupations in the country must provide proven strategies for the elimination of these preventable deaths.
In the past, efforts to decrease the rate of overturn fatalities and injuries have largely focused onincreasing the proportion of tractors with a rollover protective structure (ROPS). These devices, in combination with seatbelts, are 99% effective in protecting the tractor operator from death or injury. Unfortunately, only 59% of U.S. tractors are currently equipped with ROPS. Due to the relative lack of political willpower to legislate ROPS installation and the less than encouraging response to education and awareness programs to date, it appeared necessary to explore alternative intervention strategies.
The over-arching purpose of this thesis project has been to assess the utility of social marketing as a framework for developing effective health and safety interventions in the farm community. However, our specific objectives included; a more thorough understanding of the perceived barriers and motivators that influence farmer’s safety decisions, the design and evaluation of social marketing incentives developed to encourage safe behaviors and the evaluation of a social marketing campaign designed to positively impact farmer’s intentions and readiness to retrofit unsafe tractors.
The research was by and large conducted in New York State and supported by grants from the National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Previous research conducted in the New York farm community had indicated that small crop and livestock farmers would be an ideal intervention target for a social marketing tractor overturn intervention as their farms accounted for close to 85% of New York farms which lack or have only one ROPS protected tractor.
A qualitative assessment of perceived barriers and motivators regarding retrofitting behaviors was performed with representatives of the small crop and livestock community. Grounded theory analysis of these in-depth interviews revealed several key categories which include: 1) risk becomes “normal”, 2) risk becomes part of a “farming identity”, and 3) risk becomes “cost-effective”. This information was used to design potential intervention incentives, such as toll-free assistance finding and purchasing ROPS, financial rebates, and campaign messages designed to address farmer’s stated concerns. Subsequent research included testing and revising messages and evaluating the effect of the different campaign incentives in a prospective quasirandomized controlled trial conducted in different regions of New York and Pennsylvania.
The results indicate that social marketing offers a promising framework for the development of injury or fatality prevention programs in farm communities. Farmers in the social marketing region demonstrated the most significant changes in both behavioral intention and readiness to retrofit compared to farmers from other regions. Data also indicated that social norms strongly influence farmer’s decisions to work safely, as demonstrated by the strong correlations between behavioral intention measures and measures of social norms.
As well as providing an assessment of the utility of social marketing as an intervention framework, the thesis provides a cogent example of how behavioral theories can be used in the design and evaluation of intervention programs. Both stages of change theory and the theory of planned behavior proved to be valuable for measuring dispositional and behavioral changes and for finetuning future interventions.