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Steven Freeman, College of Education, (515) 294-9541
Charles Schwab, College of Agriculture, (515) 294-4131
Timothy Derrick, College of Education, (515) 294-8438
Cathy Curtis, College of Education, (515) 294-8175
Kevin Brown, News Service, (515) 294-8986


AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State University has been awarded a $766,500, three-year grant from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to study farm-related injuries to children and to create safety-training materials.

The grant is the result of a collaborative effort between Iowa State's College of Education and the College of Agriculture. The lead researcher is Charles Schwab, associate professor of agricultural engineering. Co-researchers are Steven Freeman, associate professor of industrial education and technology; Timothy Derrick, associate professor of health and human performance; and Jason Gillette, assistant professor of health and human performance.

Freeman said the research will investigate risk factors of children's carrying tasks. Researchers will study load (strains and twisting of the body and muscles) and issues related to common types of containers and total weight.

"Parents often begin to involve children in agriculture by assigning them farm maintenance and livestock feeding duties because these are deemed safer than the more complex and hazardous operation of tractors and field equipment," Freeman said. "These tasks may require children to carry loads that are proportionately large or heavy."

Schwab said farm families will benefit if parents have information on how to gauge the risks of particular chores and to identify appropriate carrying procedures or limits based on the age and build of their children.

"We will examine questions such as, 'is it better for a certain age group of children to carry one, five-gallon bucket or to carry two, one-gallon buckets in each hand?'" Schwab said. "By studying how such activities and options may impact posture, joints and spines of different age groups, we will be able to assess the risks of possible injuries and offer alternatives to prevent pain and suffering."

National statistics show that children have the highest rate of fatal injuries per hour of work time of any age group and account for as much as one-third of the reported farm work-related fatalities. Agriculture uses about four percent of the child labor force but accounts for 25 percent of the most severe child work injuries.

"Studies have shown that overexertion is a frequent cause of injury for children working on farms," Freeman said. "Agriculture work by children may involve abnormal loads on a repetitive basis, such as the transport of feed to livestock areas. Such work by young children may lead to sprains and strains."

The study will involve 88 children volunteers from 4-H clubs in Iowa between the ages 8 to 17. There will be an equal number of male and female participants broken into three age categories.

Research on body and joint movements and reaction forces will be conducted in Iowa State's Biomechanics Laboratory in the department of health and human performance, also in the College of Education.

For more information, visit the project's Web site


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