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:
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 atwww.extension.org/agsafety.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In 2000, the North Central Education/Extension Research Activity (NCERA) 197 committee was founded to develop strategies to implement the land-grant system’s research and extension capacity with the experience of agricultural producers to reduce work-related injuries, illness, and death. The NCERA-197 was reappointed in 2005 when its name changed from NCR 197 to NCERA 197.
This review provides background data to guide the development of a new national research and extension agenda for agricultural safety and health. Scholarly products consisting of peer reviewed journal articles, technical conference papers, and educational products published between 2004-2015 were identified and reviewed. A total of 1121 scholarly products were documented. An increasing trend was observed in the number of scholarly products published. Based on the number of the scholarly products reviewed, most products addressed the priority area of ‘Special Population and Enterprises’.
Like crops themselves, teaching agricultural safety has its seasons. Over a career, an instructor might see periods when awareness and support of agricultural safety programs are high and parents, producers, and employees want more programs in the school or in the workplace. Then there are times when the focus shifts to other topics, and it is easy for people to think that we have already “taken care of” agricultural safety. Until the next local incident shocks us back into awareness.
Unlike our human focus, the hazards themselves never take a break. The range of hazards in the agricultural workplace that result from daily exposure to powerful machines and chemicals, from the repetitive day in, day out activity, from the stress of second-guessing the crops, the weather, the pests… Agricultural workers must face these hazards every day.
Agricultural hazards take a heavy toll – agriculture remains one of the most dangerous occupations – yet, it rarely makes the front page. Instead of the dramatic incident in which dozens are killed or injured – incidents that make it into the newspapers and onto television, incidents that mobilize resources – agricultural losses are a steady drip, drip, drip – a tractor overturn here, a confined space injury there, an unfortunate encounter with a bull or horse… it adds up, and almost every farm family has these stories to tell.
Safety educators must work constantly to inform agricultural producers, their families, and their employees both when safety is “popular” and when it is not. In addition to this, at the high school and college level, we must work to prove the relevance of agricultural safety courses and raise the next crop of safety educators and safety advocates. Our hope is the materials in this book will motivate and facilitate the teaching of agricultural safety at the high school and college level and be the seeds of that crop. The hazards never take a break, and neither must we.
The Safety in Agriculture for Youth (SAY) Project National Steering Committee developed a belief statements document regarding youth working in agriculture. The belief statements outline consensus-based beliefs and principles that promote safety and health for youth working in agriculture. Click HERE to view the formal PDF version of the belief statements.
To date, the belief statement has been endorsed by the following organizations:
Agricultural Safety and Health Council of America (ASHCA)
American Association for Agricultural Education
American Farm Bureau Federation
Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM)
Carle Center for Rural Health and Farm Safety
Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (CSCASH)
College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences, Utah State University
Farm Safety 4 Just Kids
Grain Handling Safety Coalition
Great Plains Center for Agricultural Safety and Health
High Plains Intermountain Center for Agricultural Health and Safety
National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners
National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety
National Council for Agricultural Education
National Council of Agricultural Employers
National FFA Organization
New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health (NYCAMH)
North Carolina Agromedicine Institute
Northeast Center for Occupational Safety and Health (NEC)
Ohio State Agricultural Safety and Health
Penn State Agricultural Safety and Health Program
Progressive Agriculture Foundation
Purdue University Agricultural Safety and Health Program
Southwest Center for Agricultural Health, Injury Prevention and Education
University of Illinois Extension Agricultural Safety Program
University of Missouri Extension Agricultural Safety and Health Program
Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center (UMASH)
Creating and promoting a culture of safety among youth working in agriculture is a primary goal for all stakeholders.
All youth working in agriculture deserve protection from workplace hazards and risks that may be associated with agricultural worksites.
Youth developmental principles are the basis for determining if and when a youth should participate in agricultural work.
Supervision of youth performing jobs or tasks should be guided by professionally recognized best practices based on developmental stages of growth.
Research and evaluation should guide development of safety and health best practice recommendations and guidelines.
Evidenced-based, culturally appropriate models should be utilized to educate about agricultural safety and health.
Hired youth working on farms subject to Occupational Safety and Health Act enforcement should be informed of applicable rights to a safe workplace, training, personal protective equipment, and to ask questions or raise concerns about their safety.
Guiding Principles for Practice
Parents, employers, agricultural educators, healthcare providers, and safety and health professionals play critical roles in designing and implementing youth agricultural safety education and training that is comprehensive, developmentally appropriate, accessible, and effective.
College and university agricultural science and education teacher preparation programs should include agricultural safety and health education that meets Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (AFNR) Career Cluster Content Standards and/or appropriate state standards.
Secondary school education and programs should include agricultural safety and health education that meets Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (AFNR) Career Cluster Content Standards and/or appropriate state standards.
Cooperative Extension education and programs should include agricultural safety and health education that is evidenced-based and meets appropriate state standards. Extension educators should consider developing safety and health educational curricula that align with AFNR Career Cluster Content Standards.
Agricultural worksite hazard assessment programs should be in place, including regularly updated safety checklists, injury prevention programs, and regular review of health and safety best practices.
Education and training for parents, employers, and other supervisors of youth workers should include instruction about:
Existing age-based work laws/regulations
Physical and cognitive abilities of youth
Need for appropriate supervision and training
Basic emergency response practices, both general and specific to the workplace
Basic hazard and risk reduction techniques such as the safety hierarchy, Job Safety Analysis, injury and near-injury investigations, and lockout/tagout.
Youth workers should receive basic training in proper body mechanics due to musculoskeletal changes from physiologic growth and development, and to protect against cumulative effects of exposure to hazards.
Youth should be encouraged to request help and/or additional training when taking on a new, unfamiliar task or experiencing difficulty with any specific task.
Parents should and employers must provide opportunities for youth to receive safety and health training specific to any job or task they are assigned to, including but not limited to Job Instruction Training (JIT) and Tailgate Training techniques.
Parents with family farm youth workers should reference current safety and health regulations to better understand high risk activities and best safety practices.
Parents, employers, and other supervising adults are encouraged to help youth obtain safety training through nationally recognized educational curricula and supporting resources such as those listed in the SAY National Clearinghouse.
Parents, employers and other supervising adults should conduct a thorough assessment of weather, environmental, and equipment conditions prior to assigning work to youth.
Parents should and employers must provide youth with appropriate personal protective equipment and training in its use and care as required by state and federal regulations.
Hired youth work assignments must be in compliance with state and federal work safety regulations including but not limited to U.S. Department of Labor Hazardous Occupations Orders in Agriculture (Ag HOs); Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) General Industry 1910 and Agriculture 1928 Standards; and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Worker Protection Standards (WPS) and Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA).
SAY National Steering Committee
Jim Armbruster, Senior Relations Manager, National FFA Organization R. Kirby Barrick, Professor, University of Florida, American Association for Agricultural Education (AAAE) Christy Bartley, Extension Assistant Director of Programs: 4-H Youth Development, Penn State University Steve Brown, Educational Program Specialist, U.S. Department of Education Linda Fetzer, SAY Communications Coordinator, Penn State University William E. Field, Professor and Extension Safety Specialist, Purdue University Frank Gasperini, President/CEO, Agricultural Safety and Health Council of America Dee Jepsen, Associate Professor and Extension Safety Specialist, The Ohio State University Jill Kilanowski, Associate Dean, Mount Carmel College of Nursing, Columbus, Ohio Barbara Lee, Director, National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety Dennis Murphy, Professor Emeritus, Penn State University Michael Pate, Nationwide Associate Professor of Ag Safety and Health, Penn State University
Susan Reynolds-Porter, Chief Executive Officer, Progressive Agriculture Foundation Tony Small, Managing Director, The National Council for Agricultural Education Marty Tatman, Director, Program Development, American Farm Bureau Federation Larry Teverbaugh, Founder & CEO, CareerSafe Online Aaron Yoder, Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center, NIOSH Ag Centers
Website takes ‘FReSH’ look at agricultural safety and health
A plethora of agricultural safety and health information is available by typing a few key words into a search engine, but trying to synthesize and validate the masses of content can be difficult. The Farm & Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice (CoP), www.extension.org/agsafety, gathers and disseminates practical, research-driven information.
FReSH obtains most of its content from the Cooperative Extension system based at land-grant universities, and from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) agricultural centers. But FReSH also works with smaller organizations such as Farm Safety for Just Kids and AgriSafe Network to disseminate their resources as well.
The CoP is a collaborative effort between universities, industry, and government, with more than 100 individual members from multiple regions of the country who review and produce agriculture safety and health information. These members work to provide usable resources such as videos, publications, online safety courses, and webinars to the general rural population, agricultural producers, and agricultural safety and health professionals. Financial support for the project is provided by the United States Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture; eXtension; and CHS Inc.
“The aim of eXtension is to summarize the health and safety information that is out there. We don’t want to duplicate anything. The goal is to get the information all in one place where people can find it and be brought to the original sources,” said Aaron Yoder, the CoP Leader of FReSH.
FReSH is currently working to integrate ag safety and health information related to food systems and climate change, including information on wearable technology throughout the food system. Wearable technology such as smart watches and fitness technology have the potential to provide safety to field workers, including the ability to detect heat illness. Members of the CoP are examining the entire system of food production to determine where useful messaging for safety and health can be distributed.
Imagine cruising down the road on a beautiful spring afternoon or returning home after a long day at work when suddenly the back right tire of your vehicle explodes. Luckily, you maintain control and safely maneuver to the side of the road. The tires are new, purchased a few months ago from a local tire shop. How could this happen to new tires?
The fact is that all tires have an expiration date. Surprisingly, many consumers and sellers of tires do not know about tire expiration dates. An uninformed consumer thinks he or she purchased brand new tires when in reality those tires may have been sitting on the shelf for years. Even though the tires were never used on a vehicle, they are still several years old. Every tire has a birth date—the day it was manufactured—and an expiration date that is six years from that manufacture date. Most automobile manufacturers warn drivers to replace vehicle tires after six years. To wait any longer than that is a gamble with tire integrity and is risky for drivers.
So what can you, as a driver, do to protect yourself? When buying new tires, ask for the newest tires available, and look at the tire’s manufacture date. The manufacture date is a Department of Transportation (DOT) code of 10 or 11 characters embossed on the inside of the tire (see Figure 1). For new tires, the code is always 11 characters. However, tires manufactured before the year 2000 have a 10-character code. Expiration dates for tires manufactured before 2000 were based on a 10-year scale because the expected life-span of a tire was 10 years. Current guidance suggests that tires should be expected to last a maximum of only six years.
Figure 1. A tire manufactured-date code, shown in the yellow box, may appear on the outside of some tires. The 11-character DOT code, shown in the red box, appears on the inside of tires.
Recently, some tire manufacturers have begun to stamp partial codes on the outside of tires (facing away from the vehicle) so that checking the date does not necessitate removing the wheel. This partial code, boxed in yellow in Figure 1, is the most important piece of information about a tire. These last four digits of the DOT code represent the manufacture date of the tire. The last two digits refer to the year the tire was produced, and the first two digits identify the week number within that year. The tire shown in Figure 1 was manufactured on the 36th week of the year 2001. That tire was on a trailer that had been sitting in a field unused for 10 years, and it showed signs of dry-rot cracking. It is unclear whether trailer tires should be replaced every six years since they do not receive the same daily punishment as automobile tires. However, automobile tires should be replaced every six years.
The majority of people who take the gamble of keeping outdated tires do so to save money. Driving on outdated tires is risky not only for the driver of the car having those tires but also for other drivers. Take the initiative and change vehicle tires every six years, or sooner, to diffuse a potentially dangerous situation.
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 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.