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Ability of youth operators to reach farm tractor controls

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Farm tractor work is commonly assigned to young people on North American farms, where tractors account for the majority of deaths and major portions of non-fatal trauma to working youths. However, little is known about the potential mismatch between the anthropometric and physical characteristics of children and tractor characteristics. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the ability of children of varying ages and percentiles to reach major controls on 45 tractors in common use in the US. The main study finding was that many tractor controls, especially those that are hand-operated, may not be effectively reached by the majority of youth operators aged 12 to 16 years. The study raises further serious questions about the ability of children to safely operate tractors in common use on US farms and calls for reconsideration of age guidelines for the assignment of children to tractor work on farms. This study provides novel ergonomic evidence about the ability of children to reach controls inside agricultural tractor cabins. The approach could be applied in similar situations where youths may operate other vehicles or machines. Study findings support the establishment and refinement of policies and guidelines related to youth tractor operation.
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Keywords: agriculture; children; photogrammetry; reach; safety

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Agricultural Ergonomics Research Center, Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, University of California, Davis, CA, USA 2: Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada 3: Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation, National Farm Medicine Center, Marshfield, WI, USA

Publication date: June 1, 2009

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