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.
Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.