Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Institute releases ergonomic guidebook for tree planters

Ergonomic guidelines when planting trees ...

"A British Columbia forest research institute has released an ergonomic guidebook aimed at preventing musculoskeletal injuries (MSIs) among tree planters.

Released by the Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada (FERIC) division of FPInnovations in late July, the document provides guidance related to planting, equipment such as shovels, blades and planting bags, as well as 'postures of interest' and warm-up exercises.

Several risk factors are most likely to cause or contribute to an MSI, the guide notes, including force, repetition, awkward or static postures, contact stress, vibration and cold temperatures. Information from WorkSafeBC adds that injuries to the wrist and back make up nearly half of reported injuries (26 per cent and 21 per cent respectively).

FERIC program leader Ernst Stjernberg reports that the field book was specifically designed for tree planters and supervisors in Western Canada. Stjernberg says that the institute is working on a French edition of the document and a version geared towards Eastern Canada, which uses tools exclusive to that part of Canada, such as dibbles, extractors and planting tubes. Those documents are in their preliminary stages, he adds.

The release of the document, entitled 'A Tree Planter's Guide to Reducing Musculoskeletal Injuries,' was prompted by a request from Weyerhaeuser Company to conduct an ergonomic study of tree planting, Stjernberg says. "The guide has been very well received," he says, noting that "we did a printing of 5,000 copies initially and that's sold out." Weyerhaeuser has bought 1,200 copies, he adds.

The document is made to be used in the field and offers sturdy quality and water resistant capabilities, Stjernberg says. "It gets a little bit abused out in the bush," he says with a laugh.

Lisa Houle, occupational health and safety coordinator with Brinkman & Associates Reforestation Ltd in New Westminster, BC, reports that the company has purchased approximately 300 books and "distributed them to all of our crews as part of our orientation packages."

Tips are provided for dealing with various stages of the 'planting cycle' including: selecting the spot, screefing (removing rotting vegetation covering the ground to expose dirt below), retrieving the seedling, penetrating the soil, opening the hole and inserting the seedling, closing the hole, and, moving to the next spot. Some suggestions include:

# avoid directing the shovel before the spot is determined as it tenses the muscles unnecessarily;
# be aware that caulked footwear is prone to catching on solid or enmeshed objects in the ground, adding to impact forces around the knee;
# position seedlings in the planting bag so the tops are pointed slightly backwards to facilitate retrieval of the seedling at the root collar level;
# keep the shovel hand below head height;
# in hard and rocky ground, use the kicker on the shovel instead of hand force;
# don't stay crouched when moving from planting spot to planting spot; and,
# relax grip on shovel handle while moving between spots.

The guidebook notes that the recommended maximum sustained bag weight is 15 per cent of a worker's body weight. For example, a worker who weighs 77 kilograms (170 pounds) should not carry more than 12 kgs (26 pounds) on the back on a continuous basis. If some of the load is carried on the hips and planting steadily decreases the load, the maximum bag weight should be no more than 23 per cent of body weight."    (Continued via OHS Canada)    [Usability Resources]

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