An ergonomic assessment of the long handle blueberry harvesting rake

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BackgroundPrevious work shows the superiority of the long-handled blueberry harvesting rake (LHR) for worker preference and productivity compared to the short-handle rake (SHR).MethodsPost-shift interviews on occurrence, location, and severity of pain, and video-based observation of body postures enabled ergonomic assessment of Maine workers harvesting blueberries. Workers randomly crossed between LHR and SHR on consecutive work days. Wilcoxon tests compared proportions of specific body postures between LHR and SHR.ResultsSubjects used SHR for shorter work periods than LHR. Thirty workers provided interviews for both one LHR and one SHR shift. Assessment of these matched pairs suggested a trend toward less frequent overall pain (P = 0.07) and back pain (P = 0.11) with the LHR versus the SHR. Video tape analysis included 17 sets of observations (8 SHR and 9 LHR) on 12 individuals. Posture assessment showed more severe forward bend and squatting with the SHR and more moderate/neutral postures with the LHR.ConclusionHarvesting with the traditional SHR is likely to be associated with increased frequency of pain in general, and mid-low back pain in particular, when compared to the newer LHR. This may well relate to the work postures associated with each rake. Am. J. Ind. Med. 55:1051–1059, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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