Agricultural Safety and Health Mobile Apps

Chicken ROPS Run iOS & Android App

Mobile apps—computer applications that run on mobile devices such as smartphones—can be educational, fun, and easy-to-use, and they can help users improve agricultural safety and health. The number of safety and health mobile apps continues to grow in number and functionality. Below is a list of mobile apps that may be useful for agricultural safety and health:

Ag Safety & Health Apps

  • CSP Quiz Game Plus: These quiz games are designed to help industrial hygienists prepare for the Board of Certified Safety Professionals comprehensive exam.
  • Decibel 10th: This app turns an Apple mobile device into a sound meter.
  • FallClear LITE – Fall Arrest Clearance Calculators: This app provides fall arrest clearance calculators, tools for supervisors and workers trained in fall protection.
  • FarmPAD Mobile App: This app can be used to store farm records, equipment service logs, and spray records or to take notes and pictures.
  • Heat Safety Tool: The US Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released this app to enable workers and supervisors to calculate the heat index for their worksites and learn about protective measures to reduce the risk of heat-related illnesses.
  • Ladder Safety: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health released this app to improve extension-ladder safety.
  • Safety Data Sheets: Database for material safety data sheets; enter a product name to find related MSD. (Android devices)
  • NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards for iPad: This app provides a source for general information about industrial hygiene.
  • Sound Meter: Easy to use sound meter that measures SPL (sound pressure level) in decibels (db). (Android devices)

Ag Education Apps

Chemical and Biological Material Safety Publications


Topic Title Organizaton Pub Date
Anhydrous Ammonia Safety: Play it Safe with Anhydrous Ammonia Iowa State University Extension and Outreach 2008
Farm Family Exposure to Pesticides: A Discussion with Farm Families Purdue Extension 2007
Handling Pesticides Safely University of Maine Extension 2020
Laundering Pesticide-Contaminated Clothing University of Missouri Extension 2010
Laundering Pesticide-Contaminated Clothing University of Maine Extension 2002
Learn about Pesticides and Clothes Iowa State University Extension and Outreach 2002
Master Gardeners’ Safety Precautions for Handling, Applying, and Storing Biochar Iowa State University 2012
Pesticides and Their Toxicity University of Maine Extension 2020
Personal Protective Equipment for Pesticide Handlers University of Maine Extension 2020
Personal Protective Equipment for Working with Pesticides University of Missouri Extension 2001
Pesticide Poisoning Symptoms and First Aid University of Missouri Extension 2002
Using Pesticides Safely Around the Home University of Missouri 2007

Ag Safety and Health Upcoming Events

Ag safety at FFA Convention

Agricultural safety and health (ASH) events allow you to meet other ASH professionals, learn about current research projects, and explore ways to collaborate with others. The following is a list of upcoming national or regional ASH events:

AgrAbility National Training Workshop
March 25 – 28, 2024
Location: Atlanta, Georgia

International Society of Agricultural Safety and Health Conference (ISASH)
June 17 – 19, 2024
Location: Portland, OR

National Association of Extension 4-H Agents
October 15-17, 2024
Location: Boise, Idaho

2024 National FFA Convention
October 23 – 26, 2024
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana

Summarized and Reviewed by:

  • Linda M. Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University –
  • Dennis J. Murphy, Pennsylvania State University (has since retired)
  • Aaron M. Yoder, University of Nebraska Medical Center –

Injury Risk Assessment for Supervised Agricultural Experiences


Injury Risk Assessment

(Source: Utah State University)

A supervised agricultural experience (SAE) is one of the three key components of an agricultural education program for high school students. An SAE provides a student with an experiential learning opportunity and is based on one or more of the following categories: entrepreneurship, placement, research and experimentation, or exploration.

Importance of an Injury Risk Assessment Protocol for SAEs

The SAE is a broadly defined experience for students and can include but is not limited to working in a job or an internship on a farm or ranch, owning and operating an agricultural business, planning and conducting a scientific experiment, or exploring agricultural career opportunities. The Injury Risk Assessment for SAEs protocol is a resource for evaluating work sites to assess risks for individuals involved with production-based SAEs on those work sites. Production-based SAE safety evaluations and risk assessments must be integral parts of agricultural educators’ visits to production-based SAE sites. Click here to learn more about the importance of safety in production-based SAEs.

Components of the Injury Risk Assessment for SAEs Protocol

The Injury Risk Assessment for SAEs protocol includes the following components:

SAE Safety Daily Lesson Plan – The daily lesson plan provides agricultural educators with a complete 30-minute lesson that includes an SAE Safety slide presentation.

SAE Code of Practice for Safety Risk Assessment – Educators, employers, and/or parents can have students review and sign this agreement form to state that they will represent their school and FFA Chapter positively with regard to promoting and strengthening student safety while completing an SAE. The Code of Practice should be completed at the beginning of a student’s SAE or the beginning of each school year or as an assignment related to a unit of instruction in an SAE.

Student Self-Assessment of SAE – Students complete this self-evaluation to assess an SAE in relation to supervision, working conditions, and emergencies. The self-assessment should be completed by students as an assignment within the first two weeks of an SAE. An administrator of the SAE should file the completed form for future reference.

Teacher/Parent/Employer Safety Assessment of Student’s SAE – This easy-to-use assessment form was developed specifically for a teacher, a parent, or an employer to conduct a safety assessment of a student’s SAE, based on the job, working conditions, and injury preparedness. Ideally, this form should be completed after the student completes the SAE Code of Practice and Student Self-Assessment documents and after or in conjunction with a scheduled SAE visit. Again, an administrator of the SAE should file the completed form for future reference.

Return to the Safety in Agriculture for Youth (SAY) page.

Reviewed and Summarized by:
Linda M. Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University –
Michael Pate, Utah State University – michael.pate@usu.eduRebecca G. Lawver, Utah State University –
Dennis J. Murphy, Penn State University (Has since retired)

Funding Resources for Assistive Technology for Farmers and Ranchers

Aftermarket Steps on Tractor

Aftermarket Steps on Tractor

Aftermarket steps can improve tractor accessibility.

(Source: AgrAbility for Pennsylvanians)

Use the following format to cite this article:
Funding resources for assistive technology for farmers and ranchers. (2022) Ag Safety and Health in eXtension Community of Practice. Retrieved from

Individuals can have difficulty locating and qualifying for funding for assistive technology. Farmers and ranchers with disabilities who seek assistive technology can face even more challenges because of their work statuses, their farm or ranch assets, and the types of accommodations they may need to continue working in production agriculture. Assistive technology for those involved in production agriculture may need to be more durable than that needed for people working in other occupations because of the type of work and the work environment. The table that follows provides information about possible funding resources for farmers and ranchers with disabilities.

Funding Source Information Example Notes
National AgrAbility Project

State and Regional AgrAbility Projects (SRAPs)

Currently, more than 20 SRAPs provide direct services to farmers and ranchers with disabilities for their agricultural operations. SRAPs can provide farmers and ranchers who have disabilities with information about modifications for their farm operations. SRAP staff members are knowledgeable about funding options for assistive technology and other opportunities within their state. If you are from a state that does not have a SRAP, contact the National AgrAbility Project.
State vocational rehabilitation agencies The Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) of the US Department of Education provides funding to states to help individuals with disabilities obtain or retain employment. These federal dollars go to the vocational rehabilitation agency within a state. Services, including assistive technology, restoration services, and training, are provided to eligible individuals through an approved Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE). Examples of available assistive technology include gators/utility vehicles, steps onto a tractor, air suspension seats for a tractor, automatic hitching systems, and hand controls on skid steers. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act puts an emphasis on transition for students with disabilities. There is also emphasis on serving individuals with the most significant disabilities.
US Department of Veteran Affairs Both the Veterans Health Administration and the Veterans Benefits Administration provide assistive technology to veterans. All veterans who have an honorable discharge are eligible for some services, whether the disability is service-related or not. The Veterans Health Administration can provide durable medical equipment, glasses, hearing aids, Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA) benefits, and grants for veterans who are blind. The Veterans Benefits Administration can provide vehicles (including tractors), home adaptations, and Specially Adapted Housing grants. A veteran must be registered at his or her local Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Home and Community-Based Services Waivers programs The US Department of Health and Human Services provides funding to states to provide services to people with disabilities in the community. These services are designed to help individuals be independent, safe, and included in the community. Available devices and services include adaptations to vehicles, home modifications, hearing aids, and other assistive technology (environmental controls, specialized computers and software). There are both financial and functional eligibility requirements. Waivers can be used to support farm family members who want to participate in farming activities, live at home, or participate in community activities.
Health insurance


Health insurance plans, including private plans, Medicaid, and Medicare, provide Durable Medical Equipment (DME) for enrollees. DME includes canes, walkers, wheelchairs, hospital beds, oxygen equipment, and in-home dialysis equipment. Assistive technology provided by health insurance coverage is directly related to medical need.
Statewide Assistive Technology Programs Every state and territory has a program that incorporate activities for learning about and acquiring assistive technology. Most state assistive technology programs provide information about devices, assistive technology demonstrations, equipment lending libraries, and reuse programs. Some have state financing programs. Some of the states include alternative financing programs (AFPs) as part of their assistive technology programs; some provide other allowable programs, including Telecommunication Device Distribution Programs (TDDP).
Alternative Financing Programs (AFPs) The majority of the states and territories (at least 42) have financing programs for the purchase of assistive technology. As part of the Assistive Technology Act, AFPs provide flexible financing terms for people with disabilities and their families. Depending on the state’s program, borrowers have the ability to purchase adapted vehicles, home modifications, hearing aids, computers, tablets, and adapted farm equipment. AFPs provide direct loans, guaranteed loans, interest buy-downs, and traditional loans. Some of the programs are embedded within the state assistive technology project; others are non-profit organizations.
US Department of Agriculture (USDA) loan programs The USDA has several loan programs, along with partial grants, available to eligible low-income homeowners to repair, improve, or modernize their homes. A variety of financing packages (including grants) are available to individuals, non-profits, consumer cooperatives, and others. These programs can make it possible for a farmer to make repairs on his or her home. Basic repairs (such as a roof repair) are not considered assistive technology and so do not qualify for an AFP loan.
Housing Financing Agencies Every state and territory has a housing financing agency. These agencies incorporate a number of programs that expand affordable, accessible housing options for people with disabilities. States have the ability to develop their own programs. Many states provide flexible financing for home ownership, renovation and repair programs, and programs that finance assistive technology (home modifications) for individuals who have disabilities or long-term health conditions. Many states have created Housing Trust Funds to support the expansion of housing programs. Several states have expanded the funding for these programs with fees or taxes from gas production.
Local service clubs and disability service clubs Many disability and service clubs provide grants to individuals for assistive technology or labor to build, renovate, or repair structures. Local affiliates of United Cerebral Palsy provide grants for computers and specialized software; many organizations serving individuals with multiple sclerosis provide small grants for home modifications; many agencies serving individuals with ALS have equipment loan closets; Lions Club affiliates provide eyeglasses; and Eagle Scouts work on projects on farms. Also, many Grange and local Farm Bureau organizations and 4H programs have service learning projects and small grant programs. Because there are a variety of small grant programs, it is important to research local resources.
Options Counseling
The Administration for Community Living within the US Department of Health and Human Services is responsible for creating Options Counseling programs in every state. Options Counselors help individuals—primarily those who are aging or who have a disability or health-related diagnosis—develop a plan for addressing long-term services and supports and assist these individuals in connecting with public and private funding, as needed.
Options Counselors are being trained and will have the resources necessary (including state-specific information via the Internet) to help individuals learn about the resources they need to work, live in their own homes, and participate in their communities. Options Counselors are being trained on resources that will help farmers and ranchers with disabilities continue in production agriculture.
Cooperative Extension System The Cooperative Extension System, which is funded in part by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture within the USDA, has a network of local and regional offices that are staffed by experts who provide information and training opportunities for farmers, ranchers, and farm families interested in topics related to agriculture. Through a network of statewide and local resources, Extension teams can provide farmers, gardeners, and producers with the information needed to start or expand a business, health and safety protocols, and connections to peers, vendors, and information related to emerging businesses. The Extension system is well-coordinated, and Extension staff members have the ability to research and share information that is useful to individual farmers and ranchers.
State Departments of Agriculture Every state and territory has a Department of Agriculture that is staffed by knowledgeable employees and funded with a combination of state and federal dollars. There are a variety of grant-funded programs available for farmers or others who are interested in production agriculture. Programs cover such topics as business planning, transitions to organic farming, improving soil health, and protecting water quality. Funding for specific programs may not be available every year.  It is important to research what is available within a specific state.
National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) A non-profit, NCAT hosts a number of programs that promote sustainable agriculture. NCAT’s agriculture work has recently focused on small-scale intensive farming, urban farming, and local foods, and assistance to small farmers, beginning and new farmers, and veterans wishing to become farmers. NCAT has staff members who can assist farmers and ranchers with information and training opportunities. NCAT developed and manages the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA).
Kiva Zip Kiva provides 0% interest micro-loans to eligible small business owners in the United States. Kiva Zip provides small business loans of up to $10,000 to farmers when other sources of funds are not available. A few programs are working with foundations to expand lending opportunities to entrepreneurs. A program in Philadelphia is designed to expand urban gardening/production. Borrowers must have a viable business or business plan. The loan must be expected to have a positive social impact (for example, food production for urban areas).
Weatherization Assistance Programs The US Department of Energy (DOE) provides grants to states for weatherization assistance. Under DOE guidelines, states give preference to people over 60, families with one or more members having a disability, and low-income families with children. The local weatherization assistance agency carries out an energy audit, makes recommendations, and depending on the needs, provides the necessary work (energy-related). Weatherization assistance programs do not assist with new roofs or siding or similar structural improvements.  However, agencies may be able to coordinate with organizations that provide such assistance.
National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) NRCS is part of the USDA. NRCS financial and technical projects relate to air quality, groundwater conservation, erosion reduction, and so on. NRCS offers programs to eligible landowners and agricultural producers to help sustainably manage natural resources.
Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) SARE has grant opportunities available to producers, students, community organizations, and others. Grants for producers may help with the costs of hosting field days, samples and analyses, labor, and so on (see grant guidelines). Grants are very competitive. For producers, grant funds cannot be used to buy equipment or to start or expand an operation. Funds can be used for outreach, materials for the funded project, and so on.

Use the following format to cite this article:

Funding resources for assistive technology for farmers and ranchers. (2022) Ag Safety and Health in eXtension Community of Practice. Retrieved from

Authored by:

Susan Tachau, PA Assistive Technology Foundation –
Reviewed by:
Kirk Ballin, Virginia AgrAbility
Linda M. Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University –
Karen Funkenbusch, University of Missouri –
Dennis J. Murphy, Pennsylvania State University (has since retired)
Aaron M. Yoder, University of Nebraska –

Women in Agriculture

Photo: Central Missouri woman in agriculture. Photo credit, Tevin Uthlaut, University of Missouri Extension.

The Ag Safety and Health Community of Practice and the Enhancing Educational Programming for Beginning Farm and Ranch Women are working together to provide a one-stop for resources about agricultural safety, health, and mechanization information specifically for women.

Based on the 2017 Census of Agriculture, women represent 36% of all American agricultural producers, which an increase of about 5% since the 2012 Census. Over the years, the woman’s role in agriculture continues to change as more women are involved in a broader aspect of farm and ranch responsibilities. Women are more likely to have livestock operations than traditional field crops. Farms and ranches operated by women typically involved less than 180 acres.

Production agriculture is a demanding and physical occupation but there are some specific risks for women in agriculture. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has outlined specific risk for women in agriculture including pregnancy-related risks, mental health, work-related injuries, and many more. The Ag Safety and Health eXtension Community of Practice has developed the article pages to provide more in-depth information related to specially to women in agriculture in the following topic areas:

Additional information about and for women in agriculture can be located at the following site:

Article Summarized and Reviewed By:

Linda Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University –
Karen Funkenbusch, University of Missouri –
Angie Hissong, OTR/L, Pennsylvania State University –
Tevin Uthlaut, University of Missouri –

Project Funding Acknowledgement:

This material is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S.D.A., under award number 2014-68006-21873.

 AgrAbility for Pennsylvanians Project is supported under USDA/NIFA Special Projects 2017-41590-27105 in collaboration with Penn State Extension.

The Missouri AgrAbility Project is supported by funds from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) under sponsored project number 2018-41590-22323.



Production Agriculture and Stress

Pennsylvania Farm Scene

(Source: Penn State Ag Safety and Health)
Use the following format to cite this article:
Production agriculture and stress. (2021) Ag Safety and Health Community of Practice. Retrieved from

Farming and ranching can be stressful occupations, and that stress can have a multifaceted effect on a person. There are numerous uncontrollable factors, such as unpredictable weather, untimely equipment breakdowns, time constraints, and financial markets, that cause stress in the lives of farm families. Stress is  a physical response to perceived life-threatening events. In an evolutionary sense, it allows us to determine whether we should stop and fight or flee from an external threat. Our brains do not recognize the difference between psychological or physical threats, and therefore our bodies respond in the same fashion to something we perceive as negative, overwhelming, or threatening, irrespective of the real risk to physical well-being. Each person reacts differently to stress, but some common symptoms of chronic stress include changes in a person’s sleep patterns, fluctuation in a person’s weight, fatigue, restlessness, and physical health conditions such as headaches, ulcers, or high blood pressure. Besides the physical effects, stress can also hinder interpersonal relationships at work and home.

Chronic and uncontrolled stress can be detrimental to your health and interpersonal relationships. It might not be possible to get rid of the things causing stress in your life, but there are things you can do to help manage the stress. The following are some simple ways that a person can decrease stress:

  • Exercise: Many farmers feel that the physical labor that they do on the farm is enough, but having a regular exercise or stretching program provides a break in your daily routine, benefits your overall health, and provides a constructive way to relieve excess energy. Strive to exercise three times per week for a minimum of 30 minutes.
  • Caffeine: Reduce or eliminate caffeine from your diet. By eliminating this stimulant, a person may have reduced headaches, increased relaxation, improved sleep, a calmer mood—and, counterintuitively, more energy.
  • Humor: The old adage “laughter is the best medicine” isn’t inaccurate—laughter might help to reduce your stress, so explore ways (social groups, books, and so on) to add some laughter to your life.
  • Talking: Having a strong network of friends and family can help provide necessary support during stressful times.  Make sure that you have a couple of people to whom you can vent your problems to help reduce built up stress.
  • Relaxation Techniques: There are simple relaxation techniques that can help you clear your mind and reduce tension. Techniques include deep breathing and taking mini-breaks during the day.
  • Sleep: If you are not getting enough sleep at night to be refreshed in the morning and energetic enough for the day, then you may need to consider a midday power nap.
  • Nutrition: Make sure that you are eating balanced meals throughout the day.
  • Breaks: Take some time from the stressful situation by going for a walk, spending some time alone, working on a hobby, meditating, and so on.

Getting Help

There are times when things get too difficult, and you might need professional help. Professional help can include your family physician or health care provider, a mental health professional, or a support group. Listed below are some signs that indicate that you should seek professional help:

  • Depression
  • Changed sleeping patterns
  • Abusive behavior
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Hallucinations
  • Consideration of changes in your marital status
  • Inability to express positive feelings
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Feelings of guilt, isolation, panic, or being overwhelmed


For more detailed information, consult the following sources:

Use the following format to cite this article:

Production agriculture and stress. (2021) Ag Safety and Health Community of Practice. Retrieved from


Fetsch, R. (2011) Farming, ranching: Health hazard or opportunity? Colorado State University Extension. Retrieved from

Jolly, C. & Miller, L. (2004) Manage stress to increase farm safety. Safe Farm Promoting Agricultural Health and Safety – Iowa State University Extension. Retrieved from

Webster, J. and Gonzalez, M. (n.d.) Mental health and stress management. Agricultural Health and Safety Fact Sheet AHS-09. Utah State University Cooperative Extension. Retrieved from

Weigel, R. (n.d.) Identifying stress on the ranch and farm. Agricultural Producers and Stress. University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension Service. Retrieved from .

Reviewed and Summarized by:
Linda M. Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University –
Dennis J. Murphy, Pennsylvania State University (has since retired)
Lorann Stallones, Colorado State University –
Randy R. Weigel, University of Wyoming (Has since retired)
Aaron Yoder, University of Nebraska Medical Center –

Progressive Agriculture Safety Day

The Progressive Agriculture Safety Day® program, formerly known as the Progressive Farmer Farm Safety Day Camp program, was developed by the Progressive Agriculture Foundation as a means of disseminating information about farm and ranch safety for children. The program trains local community members and provides them with resources to organize and conduct day-long safety training sessions for children. Sessions include age-appropriate, hands-on learning activities and address such topics as:

  • fire safety,
  • first aid,
  • electrical safety,
  • all-terrain vehicle (ATV) safety, and
  • animal safety.

Click here to be directed to the Progressive Agriculture Safety Day home page. From the home page, you can access the dates for upcoming Safety Days or sign up to host a Safety Day.

Target Audience

Children ages 8 to 13 are the primary target audience for Safety Days, but curricula are also available for younger children (ages 4 to 7) and whole families. Anyone interested in providing safety information to youth (e.g., Cooperative Extension educator, staff of nonprofit organizations, hospital personnel, etc.) can apply to serve as a Safety Day coordinator.

Support for Communities Hosting a Safety Day

The Progressive Agriculture Foundation provides the following items and support to those communities selected to participate in the Progressive Agriculture Safety Day program:

  • training for the Safety Day coordinator
  • materials to plan and conduct the event
  • free T-shirts and take-home bags for Safety Day volunteers and participants
  • publicity for the event in the Progressive Farmer magazine, Farm Progress magazine, and Farm Journal and through national media outlets
  • sample media releases
  • liability and excess medical insurance to cover participants who attend the event
  • a large “Welcome” banner for use at the Safety Day
  • information exchange
  • support via phone and email


In addition to providing training and resources, the Progressive Agriculture Foundation provides Safety Day participants and leaders materials to evaluate the program and give feedback. Evaluations are conducted immediately following the event and, when grant funding is available, at intervals after the event. Evaluations collected in post-event interviews conducted three months and one year after the Safety Day have shown significant increases in knowledge and safe behaviors.


Click here for more information about the Progressive Agriculture Foundation.

Click here to be directed to the Ag Safety and Health eXtension, a national clearinghouse for agricultural safety and health information.

Use the following format to cite this article:

Progressive Agricultural Safety Day. (2021) Ag Safety and Health eXtension Community of Practice. Retreived from

Reviewed and Summarized by:
Linda M. Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University –
Dennis J. Murphy, Pennsylvania State University –
Susan Reynolds-Porter, Progressive Agriculture Safety Days & Progressive Agriculture Foundation –
Aaron M. Yoder, University of Nebraska Medical Center –

Women, Tools and Ergonomics

(Photo/video permission granted by Green Heron Tools for use with educational materials through FReSH)

Use the following format to cite this article:

Women, tools and ergonomics. (2017) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from


According to the United States Department of Agriculture – Economic Research Service, the number of farms operated by women continues to grow. A snapshot of women-operated farms is typically small farms but often diversified. Some characteristics of principal women farm operators include older and more educated than their male counterparts but also rely more on off-farm work income. Women in agriculture have different challenges than their male counterparts but one area that is sometimes overlooked is tool selection.

The majority of tools were designed and manufactured for males. Therefore, they were designed for the height, strength and body type of a man. However, women have a difficult time using these tools because of their body and strength characteristics. Because women have 40-75% less upper-body and 5-30% less lower-body strength compared to men, tools for women need to be designed so they are able to utilize more of their lower-body strength.

Typically women are smaller in stature and have proportionally shorter legs and arms. For a woman to use a tool that is too long, it can require her to work harder, cause physical pain, and strain muscle because the tool is not the right size. Compare this to using a piece of equipment with an undersized tractor and the strain that it places on the tractor and places it at risk.  Another physical difference for women is that they have wider hips and more narrow shoulders. Women typically have more adipose (loose connective tissue) than men. The grip of a tool can be one of the biggest issues because women tend to have smaller grips. However, most tools were designed for men so the grips are too big for some women’s hands which may cause the tool to slip, strain muscles in the female’s hand, and place women at risk of an injury.

Women continually use tools that are not the optimal tool for them to complete tasks. These non-optimal tools can place women at risk for an injury. In the past, women did not have options when it came to choosing a tool but times are changing and the market for tools that are specifically designed for women is making an impact. Research by McCoy, Carruth, and Reed (McCoy, et al) recommended that engineering research should be utilized when designing machinery or equipment for women farmers. Yoder, Adams and Brensinger (Yoder et al) conducted online surveys and focus groups with women concerning tools and found that there was a consensus in the following feedback: tools were too long or heavy, mechanized equipment was difficult and heavy to control, unbalanced hand tools, and poorly located or sized handles or grips. Engineers affiliated with Penn State University and, later, the University of Nebraska worked with Green Heron Tools on the research and design of a line of tools for women.

Green Heron Tools was founded by two women with backgrounds in public health, nursing, research & education who were also small-scale farmers. Recognizing the links among tools and equipment and health and safety, they successfully applied for a USDA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant to research the tool-related needs of women farmers. The company has since received three additional SBIR grants, including its current grant, focused on the design of equipment to assist with the lifting and carrying of heavy materials such as feed bags, hay bales and full buckets.

The 2016 i-Three Corp project between the Ag Safety and Health Community of Practice and Wearable Technology Learning Network worked with Green Heron Tools to look specifically at manure forks for women. Green Heron Tools developed a handle that is used on most of their tools that has been tested for ease of use. For the manure fork testing, the team used the Green Heron Tool handle but used different manure fork heads to test the design of the head portion of the tool. In the past, testing was completed using complex heart and breathing monitors to measure changes as a person used the prototype tool. The i-Three Corp project used wearable technology with a heart rate monitor linked to a mobile device to complete this round of testing. This configuration was easier for the testers to use and it was assumed that an increased heart rate during tool usage indicated it was more difficult to use the tool. A graduate student at the University of Missouri, Division of Food Systems and Bioengineering Department of Agricultural Systems Management Program is also testing the manure fork with women farmers and ranchers in Missouri.

The impact of this project was evidence-based tool development that is specifically designed and tested for women by women. Research data from this study will enable Green Heron Tools to complete the manure fork design and begin manufacturing.

Another project working with women, tools and ergonomics is the national Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program: 21st Century Management: Enhancing Educational Programming for Beginning Farm and Ranch Women. The Farm Safety, Mechanization, and Ergonomics team led by Karen Funkenbusch is made up of women from agriculture safety and health professionals, extension specialists, rural health care providers, and farmers and ranchers. Her team is collaboratively working with eXtension’s Farm & Ranch eXtenision in Safety and Health (FReSH) to collect practical resources for improving farm safety, mechanization, and ergonomic for educators and beginning women farmer’s and rancher’s and storing them in one central location on the eXtension FReSH website at


Ergonomics and Farming – California AgrAbility

Secondary Injury Prevention: Ergonomics on the Farm – Ohio State University


About green heron tools. (n.d.) Green Heron Tools. Retrieved from

Hoppe, R., & Penni Korb. Characteristics of women farm operators and their farms. , EIB-111, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, April 2013. Retrieved from

Reed, D, McCoy, C.A., & Carruth, A.K. (2001) Women in agriculture: Risks for occupational injury. Retrieved from

Yoder, A.M., Adams, A.M., & Brensinger, E.A. (n.d.) Designing tools and agricultural equipment for women. University of Nebraska Medical Center. Retrieved from


Summarized and Reviewed by:
Ann Adams, Green Heron Tools
Liz Brensinger, Green Heron Tools
Linda Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University –
Karen Funkenbusch, University of Missouri –
Aaron Yoder, University of Nebraska Medical Center –

Shovels: Background, Challenges and Recommendations

(Photo/video permission granted by Green Heron Tools for use with educational materials through FReSH)

Use the following format to cite this article:

Shovels: Background, challenges, and recommendations. (2017) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from….

A shovel is a tool used for digging and moving material (e.g., dirt, grain, etc.) from one place to another. Shoveling is a strenuous task that can place added stress on a person’s whole body but especially the spine.  When using a shovel, a person is lifting and twisting their body which can place a person at risk for disc compressions and strain injuries. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, over 28,000 people received hospital treatment in 2009 for injuries (e.g., strains to back, shoulder, etc.) due to their use of unpowered garden tools (e.g., shovel, rake, etc.).

The standard shovel was not ergonomically designed but has evolved over the last century. Many shovels in use today by consumers were not chosen by them but given to them, inherited or that was the one available in the shed. However, shovels are not ‘one-size-fits-all’ tool especially for a female user. The following five things should be consider by a person when selecting a shovel:

  1. Weight – Obviously the higher the weight of the shovel and the load, the more strain it will place on a person’s body. However, a person needs to match the weight of the shovel with the type of job that they are doing. For example, the same shovel may not be appropriate to shovel snow in the winter and sand in the summer. The material that the shaft is made of can also impact the weight of the shovel.
  2. Type of Handle – Some shovels have long straight shafts while others have shorter shafts with D-shaped grips or handles. D-grips offer the benefit of allowing the user to keep her/his wrist in a neutral — unbent, untwisted — position. D-grips may also provide additional comfort and control, and oversized D-grips on some tools allow for two-handed digging.
  3. Length – A person needs to consider the length of the handle when choosing a shovel. If the tool is too long for the person then it may be harder for them to use and place them at risk for an injury.
  4. Blade size and shape – The shape and size of the shovel blade depends on the material that you are going to be moving. A larger blade is typically used with less dense material.
  5. Angle – An angled shaft can reduce the strain on a person’s spine.

The following tips are designed to reduce strain on a person’s body when using a shovel:

  • Choose the right tool for your body size and strength
  • Examine the tool to look for any signs of defect or damage. If damaged, do not use it.
  • Do some stretches prior to starting the job to loosen your muscles and increase your blood flow to your muscles.
  • Wear gloves to protect your hands and improve grip and wear sturdy, closed-toed footwear with good arch support.
  • Before your first scoop, decide how and where you will move the material.  
  • Examine your footing to make sure you have a solid place to put your feet and examine the area for obstacles (e.g., pipes, holes, etc.). Stand with your feet apart at a distance that is comfortable for you.  
  • Shoveling is not a race so pace yourself to do the job well without putting additional strain on your back. Take breaks!
  • Keep your back straight and bend your knees slightly so that you can use your leg strength to move the load and have your elbows close to your body. When you lift, straighten your knees so you are lifting with your leg strength instead of your back.
  • If digging with the shovel, use the ball of your foot to put leverage on the shovel blade and use your leg muscles to push down on the blade.
  • Material should not be thrown over three feet and it is a better practice to walk closer to where you need to dump it rather than throwing it. When you are throwing material, turn your feet in the direction of where you are throwing it. Never throw a shovel load over your shoulder.
  • In general, the maximum weight to shovel at a high rate (15 scoops per minute) shovels is approximately 10 – 15 pounds which includes the weight of the shovel and the load.  If a person is shoveling at a slower rate, the shovel and load combination weight could be up to 24 pounds. However, it is better to complete multiple load lifts at a lighter weight than to lift heavier loads less often.


Resources for Women Farmers and Gardeners by Green Heron Tools –


Hansson, P.A. & Oberg, K.E.T. (1996) Journal of Agriucltural Safety and Health 2(3): 127-142. Retrieved from

OSH answer fact sheets: Shoveling. (2011) Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Retrieved from

Safety note #157: Safe use of rakes and shovels (2010) University of California Agriculture and National Resources. Retrieved from

Shoveling 101: usage & techniques. (n.d.) Green Heron Tools. Retrieved from


Summarized and Reviewed by:
Ann Adams, Green Heron Tools
Liz Brensinger, Green Heron Tools
Linda Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University –
Karen Funkenbusch, University of Missouri –
Aaron M. Yoder, University of Nebraska Medical Center –