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Peer-reviewed Article

Smaller loads reduce risk of back injuries during wine grape harvest


James M. Meyers, School of Public Health, UC Berkeley
John A. Miles, Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, UC Davis
Julia Faucett, Department of Community Health Systems, UC San Francisco
Fadi A. Fathallah, Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, UC Davis
Ira Janowitz, Ergonomics Program
Rhonda J. Smith, UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE), Sonoma County
Ed Weber, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health funded this research

publication information

California Agriculture 60(1):25-31. DOI: 10.3733/ca.v060n01p25. January-March 2006.

NALT Keywords

animal injuries, back, California, loads, manual harvesting, occupational accidents, wine grapes


Hand-harvest work in wine grape vineyards is physically demanding and exposes workers to a variety of ergonomics risk factors. Analysis of these exposures together with data on reported work-related injuries points to the risk of back injury as a prevention priority, in particular the lifting and carrying of tubs of cut grapes (weighing up to 80 pounds) during harvest. Our study evaluated the effectiveness of an intervention — the use of a smaller picking tub — on the incidence of musculoskeletal symptoms among workers during two harvest seasons. Reducing the weight of the picking tub by about one-fifth to below 50 pounds resulted in a five-fold reduction in workers' postseason musculoskeletal symptom scores, without significant reductions in productivity.


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