Wine Industry News

Reducing musculoskeletal injuries in vineyard workers

Apr 4, 2022 | Winery Industry News

As we move closer to the busiest time of year for vineyard operators, it’s essential that your workers are healthy and able to function to the best of their ability. The work they do involves intensive manual labour that can lead to a musculoskeletal injury (MSI) and lost days at work. MSIs include tendonitis, sprains, and strains, and can affect almost any part of the body. In addition, statistics show that more than half of these injuries can be severe enough to require a long recovery time. Furthermore, after an MSI, the same area may be more prone to re-injury.

Common causes of MSIs

Some of the daily tasks in a vineyard require workers to make repetitive, fine-motor movements, to use pressure, or to reach, kneel, and squat. These actions include some of the most common areas of concern for MSIs:

  • Repetition — how often the motion is repeated during the task, or how often the task is repeated with little variation
  • Force — the pressure needed to perform a task, such as pruning or tying
  • Posture — holding the same position for a long time or moving in an awkward way (bending, reaching, squatting, twisting)
  • Local contact stress — contact with a hard or sharp object for a long period of time

Preventing MSIs

Luckily, strategies to prevent MSIs don’t require major investment in new equipment or complicated training in new techniques. Methods to reduce the risk of MSIs fall under three main categories:

Use and maintain the right tools:

  • Have workers use a rolling seat to reduce the amount of bending or squatting when working at a low height and to keep the back in a neutral position.
  • Choose lighter, ergonomically designed tools that require less force and encourage better working positions — such as straight wrists when pruning or harvesting.
  • Keep tools properly maintained, adjusted, and regularly sharpened.

Use personal protective equipment

  • Ensure workers wear comfortable, closed-toe shoes that provide support and protection.
  • Have workers use knee pads to cushion knees and reduce pressure when kneeling.

Remind workers to listen to their bodies

  • Keep their bodies correctly aligned and avoid bending, twisting, or reaching in awkward positions.
  • Have workers rotate between tasks that use different muscle groups to reduce repetitive motion stress.

Develop a health and safety plan to reduce MSIs

Employers are responsible for maintaining a healthy and safe work environment, and MSI prevention is an important part of your overall health and safety program. Follow these steps to successfully incorporate MSI prevention into your health and safety program:

  1. Consult with workers at every step.
  2. Educate workers and supervisors about MSIs, including the risk factors and early signs and symptoms. Encourage them to report any signs of MSIs that they notice developing.
  3. Use injury or first aid statistics and worker feedback to identify jobs with the highest risk for MSIs.
  4. Control the risks by making changes in equipment, processes, or techniques.
  5. Evaluate the results to ensure that the risk of MSI has been reduced.

Providing workers with the right tools, supervision, and training ensures they can stay safe and healthy in the vineyards throughout all seasons.

Visit worksafebc.com/ergonomics for more information on preventing MSIs. Also, find health and safety resources for vineyard workers at worksafebc.com/agriculture