This paper gives an overview of the extent of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in agriculture, and a historical perspective on how ergonomics has been used to reduce the health effects of labor-intensive agriculture. A summary of exposure to MSD physical risk factors within various classes of crops, along with various administrative and engineering controls for abating MSDs in agriculture is given. These controls range from programmed rest breaks to mechanized or partially-mechanized operations. Worker-based approaches such as prone carts and platforms, and load transfer devices hold promise in combating the prevalent stooped work in agriculture. Including the worker as an integral contributor to all aspects of developing and implementing an intervention, and considering the psychosocial and socio-cultural aspects of the work environment are crucial elements of effective interventions for reducing MSDs. Despite the advent progress in new technologies in agricultural practices, reliance on labor, especially in fresh market fruits and vegetables, will always be a major cornerstone of agriculture for at least the foreseen future. It is encouraging to see the increased interest among health and safety professionals, epidemiologists, engineers, social scientists, and ergonomists throughout the world who are committed to the plight of reducing MSDs and other health problems among agricultural workers. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.
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