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Evaluation of the vibrations transmitted to the hand-arm system in the use of portable harvesters for olives


The use of portable harvesters in olives harvesting is presently widely diffused in Sicily, south Italy, both to reduce the costs of production and to assure the olive oil quality. Nevertheless, it's well known that the use of such tools may involve risk of exposure to vibration transmitted to the hand-arm system which is a potential cause of muscular/skeletal pains, and specific pathologies such as Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), Vibration-Induced White Finger (VWF) and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). The aim of this study was to assess the level of exposure to vibration transmitted to the hand-arm system of the operators during the use of portable harvesters for olives. Two different commonly used types of tools were evaluated performing both laboratory and field tests. One was a hook type harvester provided with an internal combustion engine; the other an electric portable harvester consisting of a bar ending with a comb, equipped with an electric motor. The daily action value established by the European Directive 2002/44/EC was always considerably exceeded by the two harvesters for both hands both in the laboratory and in the field tests; however, the electric comb showed A(8) values about halved with respect to the hook type, equal to 20.79 and 18.69 m s-2 respectively for right and left hand in the field tests against 42.07 and 30.03 m s-2 obtained with the hook type harvester.