Weeding plants in large commercial nurseries

Task
Weeding plants in large commercial nurseries.

Problem
Workers often weed plants stored in plastic flats on the ground in a stooped posture for prolonged periods of time. This results in a high risk of muscle fatigue and low back pain.

Intervention
A portable table can be used so the workers can stand upright while weeding. The point of operation is elevated from ground level to waist level while weeding. Although workers still stoop to pick up trays, the total duration of time in a stoop posture and bending is significantly decreased. Higher quality of worker performance is expected due to increased comfort. A rail near the bottom provides structural rigidity and a footrest to allow workers to change position periodically.

Cost
$228 per table

Evaluation of Intervention

  • Pros
  • Eliminates the need to stoop in a static posture for long durations
  • Tray is closer to the worker
  • More frequent posture changes available
  • Efficiency and quality of work improved
  • Cons
  • Some potential for back injury remains due to lifting and lowering trays

Semi-Quantitative Evaluation of Intervention

  • Reduction of Identified Risk Factor
  • No New Risk Factors Introduced
  • Productivity not Reduced
  • Low Cost
  • Total
  • 4/5
  • 4/5
  • 4/5
  • 4/5
  • 16/20

Other Possible Interventions

  • Performing weeding task in a squat posture
  • Build portable table out of aluminum to reduce weight and increase maneuverability
  • Retrofit existing table by adding wheels

Acknowledgements
This project was funded by NIOSH and was carried out by the University of California Agricultural Ergonomics Research Center. Further information is available from the AERC website [ ag-ergo.ucdavis.edu] and in the CDC/NIOSH Publication, “Simple Solutions” [DHHS Publication No. 2001-111].