Ergonomics and Equipment Safety

Tractor in agricultural field

Because farming often requires repetitive tasks such as bending, cutting, carrying of heavy loads, and climbing, agricultural workers are at risk for developing musculoskeletal injuries. WCAHS researchers have a history of developing ergonomic solutions to develop agricultural tools and methods to make common tasks less stressful on the body. Examples include designing a safer ladder based on optimally spaced rungs and ladder angle to reduce joint stress and falls in agricultural orchard work. Safe ladder standards have been developed through theoretical modeling, laboratory testing and validation, and subsequent testing and validation in the field. The results will help investigators encourage ladder manufacturers to offer them improved orchard ladder in addition to their existing standard orchard ladders.

Other ergonomic projects include designing a bucket lift and carrier system to prevent low-back disorders, especially for adolescents working on the farm, and optimizing grape carrying tubs to reduce stress on grape pickers. The grape tub has been widely adopted by the viticulture community.

Current research includes evaluating mechanical and robotic strawberry harvest-aids as a means of controlling lower back disorders in strawberry pickers, while maintaining picking efficiency. Ergonomics and robotics are currently important areas of research as the agricultural work force ages and becomes limited in numbers.