OSHA’s proposed ergonomics program standard only applied to those working in general industry. Agriculture, along with construction and maritime industries were specifically immune to coverage by the rescinded standard. Of course, this doesn’t mean that there are no ergonomic concerns in those industries.
Earlier this year the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) released a guide on ergonomics in the farming industry. The guide introduces ergonomic concerns in farm work with statistical data including reports that a third of the injuries that cause farm workers to miss work are sprains and strains, and a quarter are back injuries. These are also the most common causes of disability.
The guide also includes financial burdens attributed to ergonomics concerns including more than $22 million in costs for back injuries in the state of California alone.
The guide describes how over the years farm work has remained much the same. Field work is still done in a stooped position. Workers carry heavy weights in awkward positions, kneel often, work with their arms above shoulder level, or move their hands and wrists repetitively. Sometimes the whole body is subject to vibration from farm equipment. When workers are paid on piece rate, they have a reason to keep up a rapid, sustained pace.
The guide provides an introduction to common ergonomic injuries and risk factors present in the farming industry. It continues with applicable solutions including products and where to purchase them and also design specifications for building your own modifications. Cost and production analyses are included in most of the designs.
The guide concludes with helpful tips for ergonomics teams and programs in the farming industry and even includes a personal testimony of the benefits realized by one food producer after implementing an ergonomics program.
The 53 page guide is available as a .pdf from