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Prevention of MSD's in plant nursery work.

Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, R21-OH-007738, 2007 Oct; :1-33
The project goal was to adapt and evaluate the efficacy of a powered cutter in a plant propagation setting, in conjunction with workstation adjustments, for reducing ergonomic risk and incidence of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Researchers secured industry partners who provided work sites and worker volunteers. The manufacturer of the AirShirz tools used for this project voluntarily modified tools in support of the nursery application. The shears were successfully trialed at two cooperating nursery companies. The advantage of the power cutter over the hand shear was dependent on the plant material being cut. Workers provided positive adoptability survey responses, and suggested additional engineering changes. The current tool would find specific use in most plant nurseries. Worker tool design feedback was important and suggests that work should continue on powered cutters for plant nursery propagation rooms. Major workstation improvements were required in the primary cooperator's propagation room, because pre-intervention pain and symptom surveys indicated workstation postural problems but none related directly to high forces and repetition by the workers' hands and wrists. The idea of pain masking, i.e., a stronger pain overshadowing lesser pain(s), was discounted after the workstation improvements resulted in elimination of all reported pains and discomforts. The workstation improvements greatly improved worker morale, and are believed by management to be a major contributor to overall productivity improvements in the 10 to 20 percent range. The lack of hand and wrist symptoms for workers at either cooperating company might be explained by job task rotation changes. Earlier nursery research, conducted from 1993 through 1998, identified symptoms and risk factor for MSDs in propagation rooms, but that cooperative partnership focused on interventions in field container handling. Researchers recommended and management apparently later implemented shorter cycle periods for the cutting and sticking tasks each propagation worker performs. Now workers cut for roughly a couple of hours, and then place the cuttings for a little shorter time into soil-mix filled propagation trays that go to the greenhouse for root formation and initial growth. These shorter cycle periods timing represents about a three-fold reduction in time period, and is believed by management to also have positive plant biology implications.
Musculoskeletal-system-disorders; Musculoskeletal-system; Muscular-disorders; Ergonomics; Repetitive-work; Cumulative-trauma; Cumulative-trauma-disorders; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Hand-tools; Hand-injuries; Epidemiology; Statistical-analysis; Control-technology; Engineering-controls
John Miles, UCD-Agricultural Ergonomics Research Center, One Shields Ave, Davis, CA 95616
Publication Date
Document Type
Final Grant Report
Funding Type
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
NIOSH Division
Priority Area
Disease and Injury: Musculoskeletal Disorders of the Upper Extremities
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Performing Organization
University of California - Davis
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division