The number of women farmers in the U.S. has been rising over the past several decades, with the rate of growth accelerating between the 2002 and 2007 Agricultural Censuses, to nearly 1 million female farm operators in 2007, and the numbers continue to rise. Tools and equipment function best and are safest when they fit the user, minimizing human risk. Tools designed for males will be less-than-optimal for the vast majority of female users. Additionally, some of women’s anatomical and physiological characteristics may place them at specific risk for farm injuries. Nonetheless, virtually all tools and equipment on the U.S. market have been designed either for men or for some “average” user whose size, weight, strength etc. were heavily influenced by the average man. This presentation briefly summarizes the literature regarding women farmers and tool and equipment use and describes the engineering design process used to develop tools appropriate for women users. Using a scientifically based design process to develop tools suitable for specific populations is both feasible and important. Gender-based anatomical and physiological differences limit the ability of universal design to adequately serve all populations. The availability and accessibility of anthropometric data; advances in ergonomics; and the utility of lab and field-testing are key to the success of such design processes. Consumer input gathered at various stages of the design process – e.g., to establish need and priorities at the outset and to test prototype tools – is also critical. Lastly, a team approach to design has unquestionable advantages.
|2014 Women in Agriculture Educators National Conference