Orono, Maine — Farmers have the seventh most-dangerous job in America.
Annually, there are 26.2 work-related fatalities per 100,000 full-time farmers, according to Business Insider. Of the 268 farm deaths in 2011, 54 percent were transportation related.
With harvest season underway, many Maine farmers and farm workers are operating farm tractors in fields and on roads. To promote workplace safety, the Maine AgrAbility Program of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, in partnership with Goodwill Industries of Northern New England and Alpha One, developed a brightly colored decal to be applied to tractor fenders, dashboards and windshields. The decal reminds operators to work safely.
University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s AgrAbility Program will give as many as five free safety stickers to each farm in Maine. To order, contact Maine AgrAbility Coordinator Lani Carlson at email@example.com or 207.944.1533, or online.
Maine AgrAbility is an outreach program for farmers and farm workers with disabilities or chronic illnesses to help them keep farming. Maine AgrAbility is sponsored by UMaine Extension in collaboration with Alpha One and Goodwill Industries of Northern New England. More information about Maine AgrAbility is online (umaine.edu/agrability).
About University of Maine Cooperative Extension: As a trusted resource for almost 100 years, University of Maine Cooperative Extension has supported UMaine’s land and sea grant public education role by conducting community-driven, research-based programs in every Maine county. UMaine Extension helps support, sustain and grow the food-based economy. It is the only entity in our state that touches every aspect of the Maine Food System, where policy, research, production, processing, commerce, nutrition, and food security and safety are integral and interrelated. UMaine Extension also conducts the most successful out-of-school youth educational program in Maine through 4-H.
Contact: Lani Carlson, firstname.lastname@example.org, 207.944.1533
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In this webinar, participants will learn more about Maine’s AgrAbility program and about the farmers who are using these services. The presenter will discuss farmer’s disability related needs; look at technology solutions including off-the-shelf products, adaptive equipment, farm modification, and software products. The presentation will also include funding options.
Target audience: Farmers, occupational therapists, physical therapist, educators in Cooperative Extension, vocational rehabilitation counselors, Veterans, Assistive Technology Practitioners, others in the Maine agricultural community.
John Jemison, water quality and soil specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, spoke with the Maine Public Broadcasting Network about the need for affordable health care for Maine’s migrant workers. Jemison said farm labor can be hard on health and its workers are notoriously underinsured and underserved. As part of a UMaine Extension project two years ago, Jemison learned one of the biggest issues farm workers face is access to affordable health care. He says the idea of a mobile health clinic is intriguing but wonders how it will be paid for.
Both the Garden Grabber and the Leaf Gripper Yard Tongs allow one to pick up gathered leaves and other debris without having to repeatedly bend down. These tools would be especially beneficial for people with back impairments or age-related limitations.
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The American Council of the Blind of Maine (ACB of Maine) publishes routine e-newsletters with stories from around Maine. In the June 2013 Summer Edition Newsletter there was an article about the Maine AgrAbility Program: Focusing on Your Ability to Farm.
Amber Wolfe, the Arthritis Foundation National AgrAbility Project Coordinator, shares information on arthritis, sources of joint stress and pain on the farm, as well as operational changes, modifications to farm equipment and assistive technology tools available to farmers and agricultural workers.
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Arthritis & Agriculture
Two free workshops focused on arthritis in agricultural occupations were offered July 30, 2013 at Pineland Farms in New Gloucester and at University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Knox-Lincoln County office in Waldoboro.
Amber Wolfe, Arthritis Foundation National AgrAbility Project Coordinator, and Lani Carlson, UMaine Extension Maine AgrAbility Coordinator, will share information on arthritis treatment and pain management options, sources of joint stress and pain on the farm, operational changes, modifications to farm equipment and assistive technology tools. The workshops are for farmers, gardeners, agricultural workers, healthcare professionals and the public.
Maine AgrAbility (umaine.edu/agrability) is a collaboration of UMaine Extension, Goodwill Industries of Northern New England and Alpha One.
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Arthritis affects approximately one-third of all adult farm and ranch operators and is considered one of the leading causes of disability by customers of the USDA AgrAbility Project. Arthritis can cause significant impairments to one’s mobility, dexterity, capacity to lift heavy loads and emotional well-being due to unmanaged pain and other factors. With the average age of the American farmer climbing above 57, increasingly more farmers will find tasks difficult to complete. Many agricultural workers do not know they may be at risk of developing arthritis. The Arthritis and Agriculture site provides educational resources and support information to agricultural workers and their families.
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With the increased awareness of local foods and health benefits, home gardening has been become a popular activity. In turn, the number of gardening-related injuries has increased. These injuries can be attributed to increased strenuous activities over the weekend – the endearing term “weekend warrior” comes to mind.
Improper work practices while gardening may make it difficult for you to enjoy your favorite past time. Before you head out to the garden consider your most important tool- YOU! Stretching warms up your joints and muscles to make your gardening activity more enjoyable.
You can also help prevent injury or undue stress while working in the garden by listening to your body. Respect pain, it’s a warning signal that something isn’t right. Be mindful of your posture while working; poor posture can lead to fatigue and strains. Avoid staying in one position too long by switching tasks routinely – bend, stretch and move around to avoid stiffness. Likewise, repetitive motion activities can lead to injuries or strains. Mix it up while working – weed, hoe, enjoy! Being safe also includes being aware of pinch points and cutting edges – wearing the appropriate protective gear while working, including sun protection. Beware of carrying loads that are too heavy, use assistive tools such as wheel barrows, and proper lifting techniques.
Ergonomically designed tools are becoming more popular and are widely available. These tools are designed to keep the body in neutral positions to minimize stress on joints while maximizing power with less energy. Ergonomic tools are generally made with large, soft handles to allow you to get a better grip on the tool while reducing vibration and slipping. The tool should also have a depression or ridge on the top of the tool for your thumb to rest against. This will assist in keeping your wrist in a neutral position as you work. Spring loaded or power assist tools will make your job easier and faster while longer handles on tools will allow you to reduce back strain and increase leverage which requires less strength.
Also consider the weight of the garden tool, most are designed for men, but some are designed especially for women. Lightweight or telescoping tools can extend your reach and reduce strain on your back or awkward reaching positions. Tools can be adapted at home with the addition of PVC piping to lengthen the tool, and additional handle or “D-grip” for a two-handed grip or adding foam insulation to pad the tool. Adapting your tools or garden space to allow you to work upright will reduce back strain and muscle fatigue.
If you are one of the many affected by arthritis, gardening can be an excellent therapy to help maintain flexibility, increased range of motion and increase your quality of life. The Arthritis Foundation has excellent resources available. Employing safe gardening work practices with a focus on basic ergonomics may help you continue to enjoy gardening the whole season long.
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