Job Hazards for Musculoskeletal Disorders for Youth Working on Farms

Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health
  • Bartels, Steven;
  • Niederman, Bethann;
  • Waters, Thomas R.


A series of eight focus groups were convened to: (1) identify tasks and activities performed by youth on farms with the potential for causing non-traumatic work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs); (2) determine the participants perceptions about risks of MSDs for youths performing those tasks; and (3) determine other factors that might relate to MSDs for youth working on farms, such as possible interventions for prevention. Seventy-two farm family members, 40 adults, and 32 farm youth aged 8- 18, participated in focus groups. Ten questions were posed to each of the eight groups about what tasks youth perform on the farm, how the work is assigned, and what risk factors are associated with the work.

There was general agreement among the adults that maturity rather than age is the dominant factor for determining what tasks are performed by youth workers on the farm. Youth, on the other hand, believed that task urgency dictated what jobs were assigned to youth workers. Most adults indicated that lifting objects, forking, or shoveling was responsible for most of the serious non-traumatic injuries. Bending over while working, sitting in an awkward position looking back at equipment from a tractor, sitting in a cramped position, looking down at a combine header, and long hours of work were also identified as potential problems. Youth described muscle aches and strains of the legs, arms, shoulder, back or neck as everyday occurrences. According to the youth, “If it's not broken, you're fine”. Only basic training is provided and most respondents believed that youth learned best through observation. There was general agreement that physician recommended guidelines for assigning youth to tasks would be ignored unless they carried the force of the law.

Full article can be found in: Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health
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