Ergonomic exposures in apple harvesting: preliminary observations

Am J Ind Med. 2002 Aug;Suppl 2:3-9. doi: 10.1002/ajim.10087.


Background: Recent research on occupational injury to apple harvest workers in New York and Pennsylvania indicates that muscle strain is one of their leading problems. A descriptive study of ergonomic risks for strains of the shoulder and lower back among apple harvesters was carried out to identify opportunities for intervention.

Methods: Based upon pilot observation in four orchards, a Posture-Activities-Tools-Handling (PATH) data collection template was designed and used to analyze the work of fifty-one workers in eight additional apple orchards.

Results: Physical loading on the shoulder appears to result from three major factors: reaching to pick apples with elbows over shoulder height; downward pressure from the bucket's strap in contact with the collarbone; and strain from carrying the ladder. Strain to the back appeared to come from three circumstances: static, awkward picking postures; bending to empty the picking bucket into the bin; and supporting a full load of the apples with the lower back.

Conclusion: Possible intervention strategies are suggested, with emphasis on direct communication and active involvement on the part of the growers and harvesters.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / epidemiology
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / etiology*
  • Ergonomics*
  • Fruit*
  • Humans
  • Pilot Projects
  • Posture
  • Risk Factors
  • Sprains and Strains / epidemiology
  • Sprains and Strains / etiology*
  • Task Performance and Analysis*
  • United States / epidemiology