Musculoskeletal and Traumatic Injury

Additional Musculoskeletal & Traumatic Injury Publications
Ergonomic Evaluation and Development of Best Practices for the Use of Mobile Work Platform Technology in Orchards (WA State MAAF 2009-2011, NIOSH 2011-2012)

The PNASH Center worked to 'design-in' safety measures into developing agricultural technologies, such as mobile platforms. Mobile platforms are self propelled and self guided all terrain vehicles with an adjustable height platform that carry a team of 4-8 workers through the orchard at very low speeds (<1 mph) allowing for rapid and repetitive hand work without the change in position or tasks associated with ladder work. This change, if not carefully researched and implemented, could have adverse health, safety, and economic outcomes.

This project evaluated new mobile platform technologies with regard to their impact on potential musculoskeletal disorders, safety risks, and productivity. We then developed best practice guidelines based on these results to inform the development and use of mobile platforms.

Technological advancement is important to American agriculture and will continue to transform work practices and equipment. The PNASH Center continued working with the tree fruit industry to develop safety measures for mobile work platforms to prevent potential hazards.

Ergonomic Evaluation of Emerging Technologies in the Tree Fruit Industry (NIOSH/CDC 2011-2016)

Technological advancement is important to American agriculture and will continue to transform work practices and equipment. The PNASH Center is working with the tree fruit industry to develop safety measures for mobile work platforms in order to design-out potential hazards. This project focuses on tree fruit agricultural activities that require high-intensity physical labor: pruning and structural cutting, green fruit thinning, and fruit harvesting. Traditionally, these activities are performed from ladders which are well established as the leading cause of injuries in Washington orchards. Now, new interventions are being introduced: innovations in hand-held tools (pruners), apple collection systems (vacuums and conveyors), and ladder replacements (mobile platforms).

We conducted a comparative evaluation for apple harvesting between the conventional ladders and semi-autonomous mobile harvest platform designs under development. We provided recommendations for safety improvements as well the comparison of whole body effort and back and shoulder inclination with both objective and subjective assessments. This collaboration led to the development of a new partnership with a local manufacturer who was designing and starting production of a different harvest platform. Again we conducted the ergonomic assessments, and demonstrated that overall the workers harvesting apples from the platform had less impact on their bodies and lower exertion than those harvesting apples using ladders. This new semi-autonomous harvest platform, the Bandit Xpress by Automated Ag Systems, was named as one of the 2014 Top-10 New Product Winners. PNASH's hazard assessment will be presented along with the technology at the World Ag Expo 2014 in Tulare, CA and there is increasing interest within the tree fruit industry for further ergonomic assessments.

Feasibility: Wildland Firefighter Injuries in Idaho and Montana (NIOSH/CDC, 2002-2004)

In an effort to reduce wildland firefighter injury and illness, PNASH worked with the USDA Forest Service and Blackbull Wildfire Services to characterize injuries to wildland firefighters. The study collected injury data from major Northwestern fires in the 2000 season and analyzed the association between the type, severity and rate of injuries, the class of firefighter involved, and the time spent fighting the fire. The report to USFS included recommendations to improve firefighter safety and reduce injuries, both on the fireline and among fire support personnel in the fire camp setting. It also proposed future research needs to better define the types of injuries, the resources affected, and the need to look at fire illnesses as another component of the wildland fire health and safety program.

FFA Community Mobilization for Safe Agricultural ATVs and Tractor ROPS Use (PNASH Pilot, 2009-2010)

PNASH partnered with a local chapter of the FFA (The National Organization of Agriculture Students) to pilot a student-run project to collect local data on ATV and tractors, present it back to their community for feedback, and then design an innovative local safety campaign. If successful, students would seek support to implement and evaluate the campaign as well as disseminate their experience to the wider agricultural community at Washington Ag Safety Day and the FFA membership regionally and nationally. While FFA organizers and students remain excited and enthusiastic about the potential of this project, parents were too concerned about the personal and financial ramifications of their children conducting a survey of local workplace accidents, and could not sign-off on the project. Without parental consent and with apparent community concerns, the project could not move forward. Participating FFA students and staff gained experience in ATV and tractor safety and in planning a survey and PNASH researchers made some excellent contacts within the Washington State FFA.

Identification and Prevention of Injuries in Northwest Orchards (NIOSH/CDC, 2001-2007)

This study found that ladders were the leading cause of orchard injuries, accounting for 30% of injury claims and costing $21.5 million over a six-year period. Ladder accidents were a consequence of unstable placement, over-extension of the third leg, slipping while descending, or being struck by a falling ladder. These hazards most commonly resulted in sprains and strains, eye injuries, and fractures and dislocations. Study results were drawn from comprehensive review of injury claims and personal interviews. To solve these problems, three prototype interventions were developed: a new ladder with built-in sensors that can, as a training tool, both warn workers and monitor risk conditions; a modification to a ladder that alerts workers to when they have reached the last step; and a simple plug that stabilizes the third leg.

Publication list

Identification of Injury Problem Areas (NIOSH/CDC, 1999-2001)

The specific aims of this project were to estimate the one-year, cumulative incidence of work-related injury, and determine the type of medical treatment sought for agricultural-related injuries and the reporting of work-related injuries to the Washington state workers’ compensation system by Hispanic agricultural workers 18 years and older. A random digit dial survey was conducted of 1600 households in Sunnyside, Washington. More in-depth interviews were conducted with participants who experienced an injury and consented to be contacted further regarding details of the incident. The results helped to shape later Center projects targeting the prevention and intervention of agricultural injuries in the region.

Reducing Workloads for Older Loggers in Physically Demanding Logging Tasks with Synthetic Rope (PNASH Pilot, 2009-2010)

In the US, logging is among the top three most dangerous jobs, and when all factors are considered, logging is likely the most dangerous job and the most exertive work. Data in OR, WA, and ID show that 50% of loggers are at least 45 years old -  and that percentage is growing. This pilot project assessed the ergonomic and economic benefits of using synthetic rope to replace wire rope in standardized logging tasks for older workers (>age 40) compared to current practices and younger workers. The project found that using synthetic rope as a replacement for wire rope in appropriate tasks can reduce workloads and offer more stable conditions for walking in steep and uneven terrain. As more firms use synthetic rope, better information on its durability can be assessed. The project showed the next generation of forest operations researchers that heart rate measures can contribute to research on improvement efforts.

Synthetic rope is available is smaller quantities from rigging shops in Oregon and Washington along with synthetic rope log truck wrappers. Larger quantities and information are available from manufacturers at: (log truck wrappers)