Ergonomic conditions in manual harvesting in Swedish outdoor cultivation
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Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), AEM
Stefan Pinzke   

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, SLU, AEM, PO Box 88, SE-23053 Alnarp, Sweden
Ann Agric Environ Med. 2018;25(3):481–487
Introduction and objective:
Ergonomic problems in manual labour in agriculture are well known worldwide. This study investigates the ergonomic conditions during manual work in Swedish outdoor vegetable/berry cultivation.

Material and methods:
A questionnaire on work and health conditions was sent to all growers of vegetables and strawberries in Sweden. Workplace studies with video recordings and observations of work operations and positions at harvest were performed. Calculations of back compression and risk assessment for harmful impact of work were made. Employers and employees were interviewed.

Working standing/walking instead of kneeling when harvesting vegetables was shown to decrease lumbar compression. Using a conveyor belt instead of carrying a plastic box into the field for the harvested vegetables reduced harmful forward bends and the risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD). When strawberries were grown in pots, the work position was a straight back and neck, with lowered arms. When grown on raised beds, the work position was either kneeling or bending forward with straight legs. When kneeling, the back was often bent or rotated, frequently with the arms far from the body. Bending forward with straight legs caused a harmful level of lumbar compression.

Harmful work postures arise during manual harvesting in Swedish outdoor cultivation. The risk can be reduced using mechanized work tools and optimal cultivation methods. Adequate work training, including instructions about optimal working postures and movements, may reduce the risk of MSD, but will most likely not eliminate it completely.

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