Volume 17, Issue 1 (2020)                   ioh 2020, 17(1): 1148-1163 | Back to browse issues page

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Hayati A, Marzban A. Strategic analysis of ergonomic and safety problems in mechanization of date palm crown access operation with the sustainable agricultural development approach. ioh 2020; 17 (1) :1148-1163
URL: http://ioh.iums.ac.ir/article-1-3024-en.html
Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources University of Khuzestan , afshinmarzban@asnrukh.ac.ir
Abstract:   (1599 Views)
Background and aims: Date palm is one of the main crops and the main resource of food and income of people in Western Asia and North Africa regions. Date fruit contains a lot of carbohydrates, vitamins, and calories. A wide range of products and byproducts was produced by date fruit and date palm wood. In recent decades, agricultural mechanization has had great development. An increase in product quantity and productivity, mitigation of production costs in the large scale farms, and lowering the need to use human power have been the main outcomes of agricultural mechanization. However, agricultural mechanization has highly focused on agronomic crops and horticultural crops have a lower benefit of technology. It implies that cultivation in orchards has been labor-intensive and highly required human power. It has caused the prevalence of safety and health hazards in horticulture activities, especially in date palm orchards. Date palm crown access is an important activity in the date palm orchards, which is associated with human efforts and drudgery. Date palm service machines have been designed to access the crown, but they have been not widely accepted and adopted by farmers. Therefore, despite the important situation of date fruit in Iran and the development of agricultural mechanization, date palm crown access operation is still performed traditionally associated with ergonomic and health problems. In the most of main date fruit producer regions, the climbing worker uses a rope called “Parvand” to climb the date palm trunk. The worker uses the rest of the cut leaves as the ladder to step on them. This causes an unsafe condition which may increase the risk of fall from height. Additionally, work under solar radiation and high temperatures may result in sunstroke and lowering productivity. It should be noted that the death rate resulted from heatwaves is around ten times higher than the average death rate of other weather hazards. Work-related musculoskeletal disorders in some segments of the body are the other occupational problem of traditional date palm crown access. Encountering date fruit production chain, especially date palm crown access mechanization with safety and health problems may cause problems in the way of sustainable agricultural development in date palm cultivation. Mechanization has an important role in the formation of sustainable agricultural development. As around eighty percent of poor families live in villages and strongly depend on agriculture, by a reduction in occupational hazards, migration from villages to cities could be alleviated. This helps sustainable date palm cultivation. In the present study, the mentioned concern was addressed. Additionally, as fall from height was a major safety issue in date palm orchard operations, the occurrence and severity degree of contributing factors of fall from date palm were investigated.
Methods: The present study was conducted in two parts of library and field research. In the library research, the reasons for the prevalence of ergonomic and safety problems in the date palm crown access were addressed. Sustainable agricultural development aspects were investigated concerning these reasons. SWOT and TOWS matrixes were used to analyze the strategies mitigating these problems. In the SWOT matrix, the strengths and weaknesses of date palm crown access were accounted for as internal factors and opportunities and threats were accounted for as external factors. Then, according to the internal and external factors and using TOWS, some strategies to mitigate the prevalence of ergonomic and safety problems in the date palm crown access. These strategies are divided into four binaries as follows: weakness-opportunity, weakness-threat, strength-opportunity, and strength-threat. In the field research, data were collected in six main date fruit producer provinces as follows: Hormozgan, Kerman, Fars, Sistan and Baluchistan, Bushehr, and Khuzestan. 117 participants with at least two years of work experience were recruited. Their mean age, stature, weight, and body mass index were 37.2 years, 1.74 meters, 74.0 kilograms, and 24.5 kilograms per square meter, respectively. Contributing factors causing fall from date palm were collected using literature and asking date palm orchard farmers. The data of occurrence degree of contributing factors causing fall from date palm was achieved by asking participants about the probability of fall from the date palm. The answer was “yes” or “no”. By summing answers including “yes” and dividing them by summation of all answers, the occurrence degree of the contributing factor was calculated. The severity degree of contributing factors of fall from date palm was quantitated using the visual analog scale was respectively. The visual analog scale was a 10 centimeters horizontal bar with two anchors of zero and 10, which showed “negligible” and “very severe” respectively. Participants were asked to mark a point in this bar. Distance between zero and that point showed the severity degree of the contributing factor. The severity degree of each contributing factor was categorized into three levels of “low”, “medium”, and “high”. This categorizing was performed with Microsoft Excel ver. 2010. Spearman coefficient correlation was used to investigate the linkage between occurrence and severity degrees. It was performed with IBM SPSS Statistics 24 (IBM Corporation, USA).
Results: Problems related to ergonomic factors (inappropriate compromising between system productivity and human health, and mismatching machine characteristics with human ergonomic factors), the economic situation of date fruit producers, field (orchard) size and conditions, economic development level of the region where the infrastructures are not provided, and lack of awareness and knowledge could cause inappropriate adoption of the mechanization of date palm crown access. To sustainably develop the date palm crown access mechanization, all aspects of sustainability should be simultaneously addressed. Three aspects of sustainable agricultural development were shown concerning the reasons for the prevalence of ergonomic and safety problems resulted from unaccepting date palm crown access mechanization in Figure 1.
Inappropriate compromising between system productivity and human health
Awareness and knowledge
The economic situation of farmers
Field (orchard) size and conditions
The economic development level of region
Mismatching machine characteristics with human ergonomic factors
Figure 1: The schematic representation of relationships of sustainable agricultural development aspects with the reasons for the prevalence of ergonomic and safety problems
Results of the SWOT matrix expressed “inappropriate maneuverability of service machine” as a weakness and “existing potentials to design and apply the simple, inexpensive tools” as an opportunity point. TWOS matrix generated a strategy titled “utilizing amended simple, inexpensive tools to cover the inappropriate maneuverability of service machine” using weakness- opportunity binary. Since “existing media and communication technologies” was regarded as an opportunity point, and “higher ascending and descending speed”, “improvement of kilogram fruit harvested per one man-hour”, “being safer”, and “reduction in harvest losses” were regarded as strength points, a strength-opportunity titled “recruiting media and communication technologies to announce the advantages of service machines” was introduced by TWOS. The rest of TWOS strategies were also generated based on SWOT outcomes as follows: “recruiting media and communication technologies to help the establishment of the expert groups or sessions to amend the service machine designs” (weakness- opportunity); “giving the awareness and knowledge about date palm planting in a good order so that machines better maneuver” (weakness- opportunity); “attempting to decrease in the expense of machines with clearing the major governmental managers about the urgency of concern to reinforce farmers to prepare them” (weakness-threat); “studying and amending simple, inexpensive, and small-scale tools matched with the economic situation of farmers, simultaneously covering the weaknesses service machines as possible” (weakness-threat); “being higher performance (kilogram fruit harvested per hectare) with service machines may an encouragement for low-income or even unemployed date palm workers” (strength-threat). The contributing factors of fall from date palm were listed as follows: trunk rottenness; losing body balance due to inappropriate guard and support; rottenness of Parvand; being injured due to thorn; being scared or injured by snack, scorpion, or bee; inappropriate visibility when descending; being injured by scythe or saw; being fatigue at the height; trunk with smooth and even surface; distraction and wackiness. The highest occurrence degree was recorded for trunk rottenness with 91.5% and the lowest one was for heat with 24.8%. The rottenness of Parvand had the second occurrence degree (91.5%) after trunk rottenness. 75.2% of participants expressed the trunk rottenness with a high degree of severity and heat with a low degree of severity. The high degree of severity was 62.4% for rottenness of Parvand and the low degree of severity was 70.9% for being injured due to thorn. A significant linkage was found between occurrence and severity degrees (Spearman coefficient correlation: 0.398, sig.: 0.000). It implied that if a contributing factor causing fall from date palm with a high occurrence degree occurs, it will result in a high degree of severity.
Conclusion: Operation of date palm crown access was associated with ergonomic and safety problems. Considering the strategies of management of strength, weakness, opportunity, and threat points in the mechanization of date palm crown access and the safety hazards which cause fall from height, the improving simple and inexpensive tools concerning the economic status of farmers, infrastructures, awareness and knowledge level, safety, ergonomic, and productivity aspects, and sustainability of farmers’ families may be a better remedial pathway. Simultaneously, researches to develop and spread the mechanization through date palm orchard activities should be attended to and supported until providing the necessary bases to realize them.
Full-Text [PDF 1136 kb]   (640 Downloads)    
Type of Study: Research | Subject: Ergonomics
Received: 2020/02/12 | Accepted: 2020/11/28 | Published: 2020/05/30

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