A 4-year intervention to increase adoption of safer dairy farming work practices

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BackgroundTraumatic and musculoskeletal injury rates have been high in dairy farming compared to other industries. Previous work has shown that social marketing efforts can persuade farm managers to adopt practices that reduce injury hazards compared to traditional practices if the new practices maintain profits.MethodsThe intervention disseminated information to 4,300 Northeast Wisconsin dairy farm managers about three safer and more profitable production practices (barn lights, silage bags, and calf feed mixing sites) using information channels that these managers were known to rely on. We evaluated rolling, independent, community-based samples, at baseline and then again after each of four intervention years. We also evaluated samples from Maryland's 1,200 dairy farms after the second through the fourth year of the intervention. Maryland dairy managers read many of the same nationally distributed print mass media that we used in the intervention and so were a “partially exposed” comparison group.ResultsThe intervention to disseminate information about the innovations was successful. In comparisons before and after the intervention, Wisconsin managers reported getting more information about calf sites from public events and equipment dealers, about silage bags from other farmers and equipment dealers, and about barn lights from public events, other farmers, equipment dealers, consultants, and electrical suppliers. Wisconsin managers also reported getting more information than Maryland managers from public events for barn lights and silage bags. During years three and four, the intervention managed to sustain, but not improve, earlier increases in adoption and awareness from the first 2 years. After adjusting for farm manager and operation variables, intervention years was associated with increased Wisconsin manager adoption of two of three practices in comparisons between the baseline and the fourth intervention year: barn lights (odds ratio = 5.58, 95% confidence interval = 3.39-9.17) and silage bags (OR = 2.94, CI = 1.84-4.70). There were similar results for awareness of barn lights and the calf feeding sites. Compared to Maryland managers, Wisconsin managers reported greater awareness of barn lights.ConclusionsDisseminating information to managers through information channels that they usually consulted was associated with increased reports of getting information and with greater adoption and awareness of safer, profit-enhancing work practices in a high hazard industry. Am. J. Ind. Med. 54:232-243, 2011. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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