UK Launches Thoroughbred Worker Health and Safety Study

UK Launches Thoroughbred Worker Health and Safety Study

The goal of the Thoroughbred Worker Health and Safety Study is to make jobs safe for workers on Thoroughbred farms.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

The University of Kentucky is launching a new study on the health and safety practices associated with a prominent industry in the Commonwealth: the Thoroughbred industry.

The Thoroughbred Worker Health and Safety Study is a five-year study funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as part of the University of Kentucky (UK) Southeast Center for Agricultural Health and Injury Prevention. The study is led by Jennifer Swanberg, PhD, professor of social work and executive director of the Institute for Workplace Innovation (iwin) at UK.

The goal of the Thoroughbred Worker Health and Safety Study is to make jobs safe for workers on Thoroughbred farms. Over the next four years, Swanberg and her team will strive to better understand the circumstances associated with common and uncommon illness and injuries experienced by workers through the project's three phases. Phase one will consist of in-depth interviews with farm owners, managers, and/or human resource personnel. Phase two calls for community-based interviews with Thoroughbred workers. Finally, phase three will involve the development and evaluation of worker safety resources to be distributed to owners, managers, and workers on Kentucky Thoroughbred farms.

To ensure the study addresses the concerns and interests of both the workforce and the industry, it is guided by two advisory councils: a community advisory board comprised of community service and health leaders, and an industry advisory board comprised of leaders from Kentucky's Thoroughbred industry. A full list of board members is available at Both boards have been very supportive of the project, as has the Thoroughbred industry.

One such board member is David Switzer, executive director of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association and Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders, who praised the project's focus on the industry's worker safety and health challenges. "Our organization represents a community of employers in the state of Kentucky with workforce challenges like any other. We are excited about research that can help offer solutions to some of these challenges while improving safety conditions for our workforce," he said.

Similarly, board member Scott Mallory, president of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers' Club, said, "Working with Thoroughbreds is dangerous, but the industry is mostly comprised of small farms that have limited resources. Any help we can receive in looking at the patterns and making recommendations is welcome."

Interviews with farm owners, managers, or human resource personnel began in October and will extend through the summer of 2013. The research team will be reaching out to Thoroughbred farms of all sizes to invite participation.

To learn more about the study or if you are interested in participating, visit, or contact the study's project manager Jess Miller Clouser at or at 859/323-0587.

Jennifer E. Swanberg, PhD, professor, College of Social Work/ College of Public Health, and Jess Miller Clouser, master's candidate, College of Public Health, and research associate, Institute for Workplace Innovation, College of Social Work, provided this information.

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