Investigation of hand forces applied to a pruning tool – pilot study
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Consiglio per la ricerca in agricoltura e l’analisi dell’economia agraria (CREA); Laboratory of Treviglio, Bergamo, Italy
Mechanics Section, Di3A, University of Catania, Italy
Occupational Medicine, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Catania, Italy
Corresponding author
Ermanno Vitale   

Occupational Medicine, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Catania, Italy
Ann Agric Environ Med. 2019;26(3):472-478
Winter pruning is a cultivation practice necessary for maintaining the balance between the vegetative and the productive activity of plants and requires many working days using hand scissors. This operation involves the subjects carrying out a series of gestures that are repeated with considerable frequency, which are all musculo-skeletal disorders risk factors (MSDs) for the hand-wrist area.

The aim of this study was to investigate the forces applied to pruning tools.

Material and methods:
Using a sensor matrix, peak and average forces were measured which are exerted while cutting branches of 3 different diameters, from 5 wine-grape cultivars. Samples were tested on 8 participants using sensored scissors to record, in 6 hand areas, the forces necessary to cut.

Results showed that while cutting, the factors which can impact the force employed (peak and average forces) by the subjects are branch diameter and percentage of branch humidity. Cut duration was inversely related to the size of the subject’s hand. The middle finger area of the hand recorded the highest force average and peak levels, while the hand region least affected during the cuts was the farthest from the thumb.

The study enabled the highlighting of which factors influence the forces employed by the operator while cutting grape branches, and to identify the hand regions where muscle activation is at its most. These findings can be relevant in preventing MSDs. Further studies need to be conducted with a larger number of subjects.

The work was conducted within the framework of the “INTRAC” project, funded by the Italian Ministry of Agricultural Food, Forestry and Tourism policies (MIPAAFT). The authors express their thanks to ….. for his valuable help in setting-up the experimental facility, as well as the preparation of materials and data collection.
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