About The Center: General

To understand and apply ergonomic approaches to development and evaluation of equipment designs and work practices that prevent musculoskeletal disorders in agricultural work.


  • To study and describe the ergonomics of agricultural work practices.
  • To design and evaluate tools and systems which reduce ergonomic risk factors that contribute to musculoskeletal disorders.
  • To facilitate dissemination and application of research results.

The Center:

The Agricultural Ergonomics Research Center at UC Davis brings together a broad-based team of faculty, professionals, and students to study the ergonomics of agricultural work. Efforts are focused on describing ergonomic risk factors as well as design, evaluation, and dissemination of interventions which reduce or eliminate ergonomic risk factors with neutral or positive impact on work productivity. Evaluation strategies include application of advanced ergonomic instrumentation, human performance analysis, and health outcomes surveillance. Work is further guided and assessed by cooperative input from management, labor, and public health professionals. Results are published and shared in a variety of formats. Research is funded by grants from private industry and by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

The Center’s laboratory is located in the Heidrick Western Center for Agricultural Equipment on the UCD campus. Research instrumentation include the Lumbar Motion Monitor and the Greenleaf WristSystem among others. More information can be obtained from our Equipment page.

Research principals currently are faculty from UC Davis. Dr. Fadi Fathallah directs the center, and leads his own Occupational Biomechanics Laboratory in the department. BAE Professor David Slaughter and Assistant Professor Stavros Vougioukas lead research in their own BAE laboratories on work that crosses over into ergonomics and safety areas. Emeriti faculty maintain availability to consult on current projects. They include Dr. John Miles (engineering), Dr. Jim Meyers (education), and Dr. Julia Faucett (occupational health).

The AERC facilities include:

  • Dedicated office space for project coordination efforts
  • Dedicated lab room adjacent to the engineering shop
  • Use of comprehensive mechanical and electronics engineering shop

The Center has acquired advanced ergonomics analytical systems including:

  • Ergonomics analysis software from the University of Michigan
  • Advanced video equipment for the University of Michigan analysis software
  • Lumbar Motion Monitor
  • Greenleaf WristSystem for Hand and Wrist
  • Video capture hardware and image analysis software
  • GPM Anthropometer Seritex 101
  • Access to highly advanced human performance analytic equipment at the UC Davis Human Performance Laboratory

Ergonomics Risk Factors In Agriculture:
According to the California Department of Industrial Relations (1992), almost half of all occupational injuries occurred in the agricultural production area. Musculoskeletal symptoms and injury patterns similar to those in manufacturing are found in agricultural work (Engber, 1993; Sjoflot, 1984). Overall, almost one-quarter of all work-connected injuries in California occurred to the spine, making it the most frequently injured body part. An analysis of ten years of injury data in California’s agriculture (AgSafe, 1992) reveals a similar pattern – some 43% of all reported agricultural non-fatal disabling injuries were sprains and strains, of which 40% were back injuries.

Studies of agricultural safety and health (Engberg, 1993; Murphy, 1992) document that agricultural work involves those risk factors associated with musculoskeletal disorders. Despite ongoing changes in the scale of farming operations and types of machinery involved, very little change has occurred in tasks performed by most farm workers, or with those tasks most likely to generate back injuries and CTDs. Field jobs (harvesting, weeding, irrigating, cultural practices, etc.) remain demanding physical tasks, involving stooped postures, lifting and carrying, and repetitive hand work. Meyers, et al., (1996), identified these three priority risk ergonomics factors as of general concern in California agricultural work. Research has shown that many important risk factors can be successfully addressed in agricultural work through using ergonomics principles (Lundqvist, 1992; Lundqvist, et al, 1992; Wick, 1992; Miles and Steinke, 1993; Meyers, et al, 1996).

The study “Nonfatal Occupational Injury Among California Farm Operators” (McCurdy, et al, 2004) reports that 29.4% of injuries in a telephone survey were sprains and strains and predominantly involved the back. The external cause was overexertion for 24.2% of the reported injuries. Machinery and falls were associated with 14.3% and 13.0 % of the injuries, respectively.

Contact Information

Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department
University of California, Davis
One Shields Avenue
Davis, CA 95616-5294
(530) 752-0102

Dr. Fadi Fathallah (530) 752-1612
Victor Duraj (530) 752-1898

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