Ergonomics & Mechanization

Strawberry harvest workers

Because farming often requires repetitive tasks such as bending, cutting, carrying of heavy loads, and climbing, agricultural workers are at risk for developing musculoskeletal injuries.

WCAHS researchers have a history of developing ergonomic solutions to develop agricultural tools and methods to make common tasks less stressful on the body. Examples include: designing a safer ladder based on optimally spaced rungs and ladder angle to reduce joint stress and falls in agricultural orchard work. Safe ladder standards have been developed through theoretical modeling, laboratory testing and validation, and subsequent testing and validation in the field. The results will help investigators encourage ladder manufacturers to offer them improved orchard ladder in addition to their existing standard orchard ladders.

Current research includes evaluating mechanical and robotic strawberry harvest-aids as a means of controlling lower back disorders in strawberry pickers, while maintaining picking efficiency. Ergonomics and robotics are currently important areas of research as the agricultural work force ages and becomes limited in numbers.


Aches and pains in agriculture: Have we done enough? Fathallah FA. 2010 Jul;16(3):139-40. PMID: 20836435

Development and evaluation of ergonomic interventions for bucket handling on farms. Fathallah FA, Tang SC, Waters T. Hum Factors. 2016 Aug;58(5):758-76. PMCID: PMC5101543

Effect of a personal weight transfer device on muscle activities and joint flexions in the stooped posture. Ulrey BL, Fathallah FA. J Electromyogr Kinesiol 2013 Feb;23(1):195-205. PMID: 23021604

Low back muscle fatigue measurements of cyclic and prolonged stooped work. Nou D, Miller BJ, Fathalla FA. Proceedings Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting.  2012;56(1):1196-1200.

Orchard ladders with shorter rung spacing for stone fruit harvest. Duraj V, Fathallah F, Miles J, Meyers J, Guzman D, Hunter T.  2015 Proceedings of the 19th International Ergonomics Triennial Congress. Melbourne, Australia.

Sensor-based stooped work monitoring in robot-aided strawberry harvesting. Khosro-Anjom F, Rehal RS, Fathallah FA, Wilken KD, Vougioukas SG. Am Soc Agr Bio Engineers. 2014; Paper number: 141913911.

Subject-specific, whole-body models of the stooped posture with a personal weight transfer device. Ulrey BL, Fathallah FA. J Electromyogr Kinesiol 2013 Feb;23(1):206-15. PMID: 23021605