Tammy Real-McKeighan — News Editor
As a nurse with AgriSafe, Linda Emanuel knows the hazards women can face in ag-related jobs.
And part of her focus with AgriSafe is a women’s health project.
“We’re working right alongside our husbands,” she said.
For centuries, women have worked in agriculture to provide food for their families and communities. Numbers of women working as farm managers are increasing quickly, Emanuel said.
“The number of women working as principle farmer has tripled over the past 30 years and their work tasks have also changed,” AgriSafe data states.
Possible health and safety issues for women include:
Increased risk for disorders of the knee and hip; carpal tunnel in wrists.
Exposure to respiratory, chemical hazards.
Increased risk for injury from animal bites and kicks and being pinned by an animal against a railing or wall.
Increased risk for lower back disorders.
Stress can play a role as well for women as work on and off the farm can create competing demands. They may be responsible for household management and caring for children and aging parents and grandparents.
In these situations, they may have lack of sleep and support and be at risk of anxiety, depression, alcohol or drug use or other behavioral health issues.
Pregnancy and fertility often are not recognized or considered when women assume farm tasks, AgriSafe data states.
But pesticides, needle sticks and livestock hormones can create the potential for fertility complications and potential impact on a fetus. Caring for animals can pose the possibility of contracting a zoonotic disease and potential impact on a fetus.
Prevention strategies for women can include:
Working with tools and equipment designed for smaller body frames.
Being aware of surroundings and risks when working with animals.
Wearing sturdy foot attire to avoid slips, trips and falls.
Avoiding repetitive motion work or modifying it to reduce strain on joints.
Maintaining strong bone density by appropriate calcium intake and exercise.
Securing longer hair above the neckline in a hat or headband so it won’t be caught in equipment.
Wearing a NIOSH-approved respirator that fit the face when dealing with organic dust, pesticides or disinfecting agents.
Wearing NIOSH-approved hearing protection when dealing with loud equipment or animals.
Managing stress by establishing support systems which may include family, friends, online blogs.
Seeking help from health care professionals for symptoms that may indicate depression or anxiety.
As for reproductive factors — reading and understanding precautions on pesticide labels; wearing the right protective equipment based on the product label when working with animals; reducing exposure with proper laundering of clothing.