Harmful Vibrations Vary by Farm Machine

Long hours of sitting on machinery and working in uncomfortable positions,
like kneeling and crawling, along with lifting heavy loads can lead to
injuries for farmers. Because of such physically demanding environments,
farmers have a greater risk than workers in many other industries of
experiencing musculoskeletal disorders-soft-tissue injuries from frequent
motion, force, and awkward positions-especially low back pain.

A common risk factor for soft-tissue injuries is whole body vibration,
defined as mechanical jolts felt throughout the body when using machines.
Currently, little research is available on farmers' exposure to whole body
vibration when using different types of machinery. To address this issue,
a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)-funded study
at the University of Iowa measured trunk posture and used devices called
sensors to measure whole-body vibration as a group of farmers operated 112
agricultural machines. The machines included tractors, combines, heavy utility
vehicles like forklifts, and all-terrain vehicles. The researchers compared
their measurements to the European Union's whole-body vibration exposure
limits, defined as a cutoff point above which vibration levels increase
health risks.

All of the machines exhibited high vibrations levels within an average
of a half hour of use, although measurements varied, according to the study,
published late last year in the Annals of Work Exposures and Health.
In fact, within 2 hours, nearly 30% of the machines exceeded the European
Union's whole-body vibration exposure limits. All-terrain vehicles had the
highest measured vibration levels, and combines had the lowest, which could
be due to the weight of the machine and seat-based suspension systems,
according to the researchers. For most of the machines, the seat reduced
whole-body vibration levels to some extent. Seat-based suspension systems,
however, did not substantially decrease whole-body vibration for tractors
when compared to tractors without this equipment. The tractors' seat-based
suspension systems may not have been properly adjusted to the farmers' weight,
or they could have worn out over time, according to the researchers. These
machines had average vibration levels twice that of combines.

Further Information

AplusA-online.de - Source: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)