PEOSTA, Iowa — Women are playing an increased role in production agriculture. They account for one third of the management, ownership and work on farms and ranches.
A major challenge continues to be access to protective equipment that meets the ergonomic needs of women.
“One of the big challenges in women’s issues in agriculture tends to be providing the protective equipment that meets their needs on a lot of a different levels, and their ergonomic needs,” said Charlotte Halverson, clinical director of AgriSafe Network, during a webinar.
“We really want women and their employers, spouses and families to understand what some of these issues are and be aware of what is going on.”
There are disparities in health care with rural women across the board, Halverson said.
Sometimes women experience poorer health outcomes due to lack of screening opportunities. Other times challenges stem from lack of health insurance or nearby healthcare offices.
“They usually have less access to health care than their urban counterparts,” Halverson said. “Most of that has to do with geography and possibly insurance coverage.
“We know there are a limited number of healthcare providers that focus on women’s health. Rural communities are struggling with keeping healthcare providers across the board, whether they be specialty practices or general practitioners.”
Women can help prevent injuries on the farm by considering and implementing safe ergonomic practices.
Ergonomics is defined as the study of how people work in their environment, and designing the job to fit the worker, Halverson said.
Contributing factors to injuries include:
• Lifting objects that are too heavy.
• Repeated reaching overhead.
• Awkward working positions and body postures.
• Continual repetition of a specific work process.
• Vibration from hand tools.
• Static load on arms and upper body muscles.
• Inadequate design or size of hand tools.
“Women have anatomical and physiological differences that may place them at risk for farm injuries,” Halverson said. “Females are, on average, shorter than males and have more adipose tissue.
“Females also have narrower shoulders, wider hips and proportionally have shorter legs and arms than their male counterparts. On average, the upper body strength in a woman is 40% to 75% less than in males. Lower body strength is 5% to 30% less than males.”
Prevention strategies can help protect muscles, tendons and ligaments.
• Good back posture when standing, walking and sitting.
• Standing with feet apart at shoulder width, one foot slightly ahead of the other.
• Turning feet and arms rather than twisting the back.
• Finding help to lift heavy objects.
• Bending knees and lifting with leg muscles, keeping head in a neutral position.
• Avoid locking knees.
• Carrying objects close to the body, not with outstretched arms.
• Take stretching breaks.
• Vary tasks every 20 to 30 minutes when possible.
To learn more about agricultural safety practices, visit www.agrisafe.org.