Innovations in materials handling to prevent musculoskeletal disorders among women livestock farmers

Period of Performance: 09/14/2016 - 12/31/2016


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

New Tripoli, PA 18066
Firm POC, Principal Investigator


30% of U.S. farm operators are women. Female-operated farms tend to be smaller and less mechanized and often include livestock. Because of certain physical characteristics, women are at significant risk for musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)such as chronic back pain. MSDs are widespread in farming, with significant adverse impacts on quality of life and economic sustainability. For women, farming is the number-1 occupation associated with MSDs. Heavy lifting is a major risk factor for MSDs, and it is a ubiquitous part of farming. Our survey of women livestock farmers in 32 states, representing a cross-section of ages, experience, farm size and livestock type, found high rates of MSDs, some explicitly linked to lifting and carrying of heavy objects such as feed bags, hay bales and water pails. In fact, problems related to heavy lifting and carrying heavy objects were the one common challenge affecting virtually all the women livestock farmers we surveyed or interviewed, regardless of livestock type(s). To address this problem, which women farmers cited as a priority in surveys, focus groups & interviews, we are proposing to design two new pieces of equipment:a wheelbarrow, cart or other vehicleto allow for the safe & efficientmovement of material andwhich addresses deficits in currently available equipment; anda product or system to reduce the MSD-related risk factors associated with heavy lifting. We expect the project to result in equipment that is easier, safer & more effective to use for women farmers; a reduction in farm injuries, which contribute to U.S. health care costs, reduce the viability of farming for women and can have adverse impacts on availability of safe, nutritious, local food; a lowered risk for MSDs, a leading disability cause; and enhanced quality of life for women livestock farmers. The new products are also expected to be useful to male farmers, especially those who are older, and potentially to gardeners as well.