The workers think I'm a little too strict about safety. I require them to do back stretching exercises before work each morning. I know they think, "Here comes the old man, we better do those exercises." They laugh at me about the exercises, but I don't mind if it does some good.
- a Fresno Grower
According to the California Department of Industrial Relations, sprains and strains is the leading type of injury suffered by persons working in California agriculture. Injuries counted are "disabling" injuries- those serious enough to require the injured worker or farmer to miss more than a full day of work. Other health and safety experts believe that the actual number of injuries that occur is much higher if the following figures were included: those who receive compensation other than Worker's Compensation, some part-time or temporary workers, those who are unaware of compensation rights, and those who do not want to miss a day of work during a busy season. Most of us tend to take our backs for granted; and then we suddenly take notice when we ache! A healthy back is strong, flexible and pain-free, and it is largely up to us to keep it that way. Many farmworkers suffer from back problems. Long hours of stooping, bending, and lifting make them prone to back pains or injuries. Evidence, however, shows that back problems are related not so much to how physically heavy or light your work is, but to how you do the lifting or bending. There are some simple rules to follow to keep your back pain-free.
When lifting (boxes or crates in the field), you should:
When working close to the ground or when stooping is necessary (as in pulling weeds or planting), you should:
When standing for long periods of time (such as in packing houses or canneries), you should:
When driving a tractor or sitting for long periods of time, you should:
work before your muscles are ready is one cause of sprains
and strains. You should warm up your muscles before working,
just as athletes do. Warm-ups can be a series of stretches
with your arms, legs, and back. This wakes up your muscles
and increases the flow of blood into them. About ten minutes
of warming up before starting work for the day help keep sprains
and muscle strains away. There are several back safety resources
available. Many are listed in the UCCE Agricultural Personnel
Management Program, Catalog of Selected Safety Materials and
Resources. Call Steve Sutter, (209) 488-3560 for more information.
This document is for and about farmworker health and safety issues, produced by the Department of Applied Behavioral Sciences, UC Davis Agricultural Health and Safety Center. If you have any stories or experiences you want to share or issues you want to know more about, please write or call Jenny Rodriguez, UCCE, Ag. Bldg., County Civic Center, Visalia, CA 93291-4584; phone no. (209) 733-6491.
Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder. More