A. Oh, My Aching Back!

Farm work is hard work, and farm workers feel the results. Farm workers get backaches and pains in the shoulders, arms, and hands more than any other health problem. A third of the injuries that cause them to miss work are sprains and strains, and a quarter are back injuries. These are also the most common causes of disability.

NIOSH believes that better work practices and tools will reduce the sprains and strains of farm work.

The technical term for these sprains and strains is "work-related musculoskeletal disorders" (WMSDs). WMSDs hurt! They hurt:

* workers' bodies
* workers' earnings
* growers' profits

In California agriculture alone, the annual workers' compensation costs for the more than 3,000 back injuries that happen each year may be over $22 million.

This pamphlet is about early intervention to prevent such injuries. It is directed toward growers, safety specialists, human resources managers-anyone with an interest in having safe farms.

Over the years, many kinds of farm work have not changed much at all. Field work is still done in a stooped position. Workers carry heavy weights in awkward positions, kneel often, work with their arms above shoulder level, or move their hands and wrists repetitively. Sometimes the whole body is subject to vibration from farm equipment. When workers are paid on piece rate, they have a reason to keep up a rapid, sustained pace. Overexertion intensifies all the other risk factors.

Many people in the farm industry may believe that these kinds of tasks-and the resulting sprains and strains-are just an unavoidable part of farm work. But NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) asked university researchers, specialists in the science of ergonomics, to look into how farm work could be made safer. They worked with growers and employees on different types of farms to come up with some simple, practical, inexpensive solutions. This pamphlet is a result of that hands-on cooperation.

As you read this pamphlet, the specific solutions may or may not apply to your particular operation. But we think you'll learn three things from it anyway:

* what sorts of work are most likely to cause injuries
* basic ergonomic rules of thumb for working more safely
* inspiration to sit down with employees and come up with some simple solutions of your own

The ideas in this pamphlet can be adapted for many types of crops and for different sizes of farm operation.

Don't get discouraged if some solutions seem out of reach. A small tool change or adjustment in the work layout can make a big difference in preventing injuries. Good luck!

These suggestions can be adapted for your own farm.

B. What Is Ergonomics?

The goal of the science of ergonomics is to find a best fit between worker and job conditions. Ergonomics looks at:

# the physical capabilities of the human body
# the limitations of the human body

In relation to :
# a person’s work tasks
# tools used
# the job environment

The goal is to make sure workers are uninjured, safe, and comfortable, as well as productive.

Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) are:

* the leading cause of disability for people in their working years
* caused by chronic exposure to these physical stresses
o forceful gripping - kneeling
o lifting - squatting
o bending - vibrating equipment

The best way to reduce WMSDs is:
# redesign the tools
# redesign how the using the principles of ergonomics work process is done
the principles of ergonomics

Relatively simple changes can make a big difference. When jobs and tools are ergonomically redesigned, you don't have to rely on a carrot or a stick to get people to work safely. Injuries are prevented as a natural result of improved work posture, reduced force, or less repetition. Ergonomic changes should be put into operation along with worker training on how to work safely.

How Do I Know if I Need an Ergonomics Program?

* Do some jobs cause strain, localized fatigue, discomfort, or pain that does not go away after an overnight rest?
* Do injury records or workers' compensation claims show hand, arm, or shoulder pain, low back pain, or carpal tunnel syndrome?
* Do workers visiting the clinic make frequent references to physical aches and pains related to certain types of work assignments?
* Do jobs involve repetitive and forceful exertions, frequent heavy or overhead lifts, awkward work positions, or use of vibrating equipment?
* Are cases of WMSDs found among competitors or in similar businesses?
* Do trade publications or employers' insurance information indicate risk of WMSDs?

C. Ergonomic Rules of Thumb

Strains and sprains are caused by excessive reaching, bending, lifting, gripping, squatting, or twisting of hands, shoulders, or body. In general, any work performed with high force, with many repetitions, or in a position that feels awkward is risky. Even a motion that is harmless in and of itself, like stretching out the arm to grasp an object, or squeezing a tool, may put the worker at risk of injury if it is repeated over and over.

Following these guidelines will reduce the chance of sprains and strains. You may need to reposition the work, or redesign the way the job is done, or use a different tool.

Remember: You may not be able to implement all the changes recommended here. But even partial changes or small changes can reduce injuries.
Guidelines for Hand Work

* Avoid placing needed tools or other items above shoulder height.
* Position items that are used often within 17 inches of the worker.
* When movements are repeated over and over, as in picking or weeding, allow enough time in between for adequate recovery, by having the worker alternate with a low-repetition task. For example, a worker who performs a high repetition weeding task should be given other tasks that don't require repetitive hand motions, like carrying the finished boxes to the loading area.
* Provide seated jobs. Sitting down while working reduces the strain on the lower back and legs. Standing causes legs to swell (more than walking does). The best jobs are ones that allow workers to do different types of work, changing from sitting to standing to walking and back again.
* Allow foot and knee clearances for both standing and sitting workers, so they can get close to the work.
* Provide floor mats for standing work stations, to reduce fatigue.
* For standing work, use the proper work station height.

Guidelines for Hand Tools

* When tools require force, handle size should allow the worker to grip all the way around the handle so that the forefinger and thumb overlap by 3/8". Handle diameter should range from 1-3/8" for small hands to 2-1/8" for large hands, with an average of 1-3/4".
* Handles should be covered with smooth, slip-resistant material (plastic or rubber). Dual-handled tools (like shears or pliers) should have a handle length of at least 4" and preferably 5". They should have a spring return to maintain an open position, and handles that are almost straight without finger grooves.

Guidelines for Lifting

* Keep lifts between hand level and shoulder level. Avoid lifts from the floor or over shoulder level.
* Provide handles on containers.
* Redesign loads so they can be lifted close to the body.
* Provide dollies, pallet trucks, or utility carts for objects that have to be carried more than a few feet. Provide roller conveyors for bags or boxes of vegetables or chemicals that are handled often. This will reduce the amount of lifting.
* Keep bag or box weight below 50 lbs. Or use the NIOSH Lifting Equation to determine an acceptable weight. See the Resources section for information on the Lifting Equation.

Guidelines for Stooped Work

* Redesign the job to avoid stooped work:
o Attach long handles to tools. (For an example, see pages 9-10.)
o Provide stools. (For an example, see pages 15-16.)
* If stooped work is required, provide employees with other short tasks that require walking or sitting.

Tip Sheets:
1. Lifting Tool for Carrying Plant Containers:
Please click link : http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2001-111/lifting.html
2. Weeding Stand for Plant Nurseries:
Please click link : http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2001-111/weeding.html
3. Smaller Picking Tub:
Please click link : http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2001-111/tub.html
4. A Specialized Harvest Cart for Greens:
Please click link : http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2001-111/cart.html
5. Participatory Ergonomics Team:
Please click link : http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2001-111/team.html
6. New Rakes for Harvesting Berries:
Please click link : http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2001-111/rake.html
7. Power Cutter for Woody Plants:
Please click link : http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2001-111/cutter.html
8. Metered Liquid Applicator:
Please click link : http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2001-111/applicator.html
9. A Rolling Dibble Marker:for Easy Transplant Spacing
Please click link : http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2001-111/dibble.html
10. Scraper Handle:
Please click link : http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2001-111/scraper.html
11. Simple Solutions Are Cost-Effective!:
Please click link : http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2001-111/simple.html

More information please visit : http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/