Although back, neck, and shoulder strains are common among migrant and seasonal orchard workers, little data currently exist regarding the ergonomic factors contributing to this problem. We adapted Posture-Activities-Tools-Handling (PATH) instruments and methods for ergonomic job analysis of apple harvest work in three New York orchards, and used the resulting protocol to quantify hazardous activities, loads, and postures. Using a prototype developed previously, we trained twelve contract orchard observers with classroom training and supervised orchard practice. The PATH data were then collected on 14 orchard workers over four days (2,900 observations). Mean coefficients of variation ranged from a low of 0.212 (standing leg neutral) to a high of 0.603 (trunk moderate flexion). Most frequently observed activities were: picking (62.9%), placing and moving apples in the bag (8.7%), and walking (8.1%). Weight bearing (>10 lb, >4.54 kg) was observed 78.5% of the time throughout a range of activities. Apple harvest work is comparable with other ergonomically high-risk occupations. Future research should focus on low-cost interventions that reduce load and awkward postures.
Full article can be found in: Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health
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