Addressing Forest Ergonomics Issues: Laborers and Working Conditions

A special issue of Forests (ISSN 1999-4907). This special issue belongs to the section "Forest Operations and Engineering".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 June 2024 | Viewed by 2996

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Faculty of Forestry and Wood Technology, University of Zagreb, Svetošimunska cesta 23, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia
Interests: forestry; workforce sustainability; occupational safety; work organization and humanization; biomechanical workloads; kinematic research; innovation processes

E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Faculty of Forestry and Wood Technology, University of Zagreb, Svetošimunska cesta 23, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia
Interests: forestry; mechanization; hand tools; battery tools; ergonomics; vibrations; workload; postural load; A(8); work humanization; cardiovascular load

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Despite increasing mechanization and the application of advanced technologies, forest operations remain among the most dangerous work-related activities, with a high mortality rate and numerous accidents. Due to the environmental working conditions, high loads and the frequent use of hand tools or machines that emit noise and vibrations, forest laborers are exposed to significant physical, psychophysiological, and environmental influences that result in various diseases, especially those related to the muscular, bone, nerve, vascular and auditory systems. The current labor market is additionally characterized by a lack of interest from younger generations for so-called 3D “black collar” jobs, which involve physically demanding, dangerous and dirty tasks. This inevitably leads to a significant reduction in the labor market potential and a lack of workforce in the forestry sector.

In every forestry work process, regardless of the degree of mechanization, the human body is a basic source of work energy. Therefore, the common concern of all stakeholders must be to ensure healthy, safe and physically acceptable work for all, according to the Global Sustainable Development Goals. The realization of the sustainable development paradigm requires the achievement of a healthy, trained and sustainable workforce. This Special Issue plans to provide an overview of the most recent advances in the field of forest ergonomics issues regarding laborers’ performance, in correlation with diverse working conditions. This Special Issue aims to present selected contributions addressing ergonomics and advances in biomechanical, cognitive and technological solutions that will improve the condition and sustainability of the forestry workforce.

Potential topics include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Workforce sustainability;
  • Development of safety culture in forestry;
  • The influence of work environment factors;
  • New technologies for work humanization;
  • Biomechanical workloads;
  • Neuroergonomics;
  • Digitalisation and automatization solutions for laborers in forestry.

Dr. Matija Landekić
Dr. Marin Bačić
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Forests is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2600 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • forestry
  • laborers
  • work humanization
  • working condition
  • biomechanical workloads
  • neuroergonomics
  • new technologies

Published Papers (4 papers)

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Research

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15 pages, 2405 KiB  
Article
Time Composition, Efficiency, Workload, and Noise Exposure during Tree Felling and Processing with Petrol and Battery-Powered Chainsaws in Mixed High Forest Stands
by Anton Poje, Benjamin Lipužič, Ivan Bilobrk and Zdravko Pandur
Forests 2024, 15(5), 798; https://doi.org/10.3390/f15050798 - 30 Apr 2024
Viewed by 431
Abstract
This study presents the effects of using a battery-powered chainsaw on work efficiency and ergonomics under real conditions during timber harvesting. The study was conducted during the felling and processing of coniferous and deciduous trees with a diameter at breast height (DBH) of [...] Read more.
This study presents the effects of using a battery-powered chainsaw on work efficiency and ergonomics under real conditions during timber harvesting. The study was conducted during the felling and processing of coniferous and deciduous trees with a diameter at breast height (DBH) of 13 cm to 78 cm using both a petrol-powered and battery-powered chainsaw. The results include comparisons of time composition, work efficiency, psychophysical workload, and noise exposure. Heart rate and noise exposure were measured over ten days as part of a time study using the Husqvarna 543 XP petrol-powered chainsaw and the Husqvarna 540i HP battery-powered chainsaw. The comparison of the time composition between the chainsaws used showed 3%–4% differences in the duration of productive time operations and 16% in service time. The difference in work efficiency during the productive time between the two chainsaws was statistically insignificant, but generally higher when working with the battery-powered chainsaw than with the petrol-powered chainsaw. During the main productive time, the work efficiency was 9.89 min/t for the petrol-powered chainsaw and 9.44 min/t for the battery-powered chainsaw. The psychophysical workload of the feller was lower when using the battery-powered chainsaw than when using the petrol-powered chainsaw as the relative working heart rates during the entire productive time was 32.5% for the battery-powered chainsaw and 35.0% for the petrol-powered chainsaw. The noise exposure of the workers was lower when using a battery-powered chainsaw, namely 6.0 dB(A) and 0.4 dB(C) compared to the use of a petrol-powered chainsaw. The results of this paper indicate that battery-powered chainsaws can compete with petrol chainsaws in harvesting conditions that are currently considered unsuitable due to the large volume of trees. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Addressing Forest Ergonomics Issues: Laborers and Working Conditions)
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14 pages, 1761 KiB  
Article
Preliminary Tests of a Hybrid Cable Splice (Synthetic–Metal) to Innovate Timber Harvesting in the Mediterranean Forestry Sector
by Gerard Alcoverro, Adriano Raddi and Gianni Picchi
Forests 2024, 15(2), 246; https://doi.org/10.3390/f15020246 - 28 Jan 2024
Viewed by 695
Abstract
Forest operations in the Mediterranean basin are still largely based on lowly mechanized systems. In this context, hauling is generally performed with equipment deploying steel cables, such as winches on farm tractors or skidders. In the last decades, several efforts focused on the [...] Read more.
Forest operations in the Mediterranean basin are still largely based on lowly mechanized systems. In this context, hauling is generally performed with equipment deploying steel cables, such as winches on farm tractors or skidders. In the last decades, several efforts focused on the substitution of steel cables with synthetic rope to improve safety, comfort and productivity. Despite the expected benefits, these efforts were generally frustrated due to the higher cost and lower duration of synthetic cables. These are relevant constraints, particularly for Mediterranean forest companies, which feature a relatively low financial capacity. As a possible solution, the present study introduces a hybrid splice of steel and synthetic cables, merging the benefits of the two materials. For that purpose, several possible splicing solutions were tested. The most efficient splice proved capable of withstanding up to 7.6 t of tension in the laboratory. In the forest, it allowed the extraction of about 450 t with a skidder before breaking. On a farm tractor, it extracted over 700 t without failure. Preliminary tests and the positive feedback of the operators proved the potential of this solution. Further research is ongoing to create a stronger splice and reduce its diameter to allow its deployment in any type of winch. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Addressing Forest Ergonomics Issues: Laborers and Working Conditions)
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13 pages, 2554 KiB  
Article
Kinematic Analysis of the Forestry Workers’ Upper Body during Chainsaw Starting Activity
by Matija Landekić, Marin Bačić, Zdravko Pandur, Matija Bakarić, Mario Šporčić and Josipa Nakić
Forests 2023, 14(12), 2427; https://doi.org/10.3390/f14122427 - 13 Dec 2023
Viewed by 755
Abstract
The application of various graphic analytical software solutions in the research aimed at designing and determining the ergonomic and biomechanical harmony between forestry workers’ anthropometric measures and their working positions and movements is still scientifically incomplete and largely unexplored in forestry, especially regarding [...] Read more.
The application of various graphic analytical software solutions in the research aimed at designing and determining the ergonomic and biomechanical harmony between forestry workers’ anthropometric measures and their working positions and movements is still scientifically incomplete and largely unexplored in forestry, especially regarding motor manual work with chainsaws. Accordingly, the aim of this research is to numerically represent the general kinematic model of forestry workers’ upper body while starting a chainsaw. The same is determined by using a state-of-the-art motion capture suit with inertial measurement units (IMUs). An additional research aim is to investigate numerical values of the forestry worker kinematic model against the three potentially applicable methods of starting a chainsaw and work experience with a chainsaw. Field data collection was carried out during the spring and summer of 2022 and 2023, and a total of 51 chainsaw workers were sampled in different relief areas. The results of the subject research show that none of the observed methods of starting a chainsaw are entirely safe for the worker, concerning the aspect of MSD development, if the body movements within the working element are performed in an incorrect way. From safety and kinematic aspects, regarding forestry workers’ upper body values, the most neutral work posture (N-pose) is when a worker is using the “between the knees” method. The method “from the ground” can be used as secondary option if the workers are educated in taking the correct position of the upper body, i.e., to practice the rule of hip hinge. With the aim of extending the working ability and working life of forestry workers, interdisciplinary cooperation between occupational medicine, kinesiologists, and forestry experts is needed to create a guide of statodynamic efforts and correct postural movement habits during motor manual work in logging operations. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Addressing Forest Ergonomics Issues: Laborers and Working Conditions)
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Review

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20 pages, 4091 KiB  
Review
Forestry Ergonomics Publications in the Last Decade: A Review
by Marin Bačić, Matija Landekić, Zdravko Pandur, Marijan Šušnjar, Mario Šporčić, Hrvoje Nevečerel and Kruno Lepoglavec
Forests 2024, 15(4), 616; https://doi.org/10.3390/f15040616 - 28 Mar 2024
Viewed by 764
Abstract
Compiling the research on forestry ergonomics, which is still a marginal field in terms of the sheer volume of published forestry-related articles, gives a good foundation and guidance for future research and publishing. This review aims to compile, classify, and analyze forestry ergonomics [...] Read more.
Compiling the research on forestry ergonomics, which is still a marginal field in terms of the sheer volume of published forestry-related articles, gives a good foundation and guidance for future research and publishing. This review aims to compile, classify, and analyze forestry ergonomics publications in JIF (Journal Impact Factor) journals regarding their spatial and temporal distribution, observed operations, machines and tools, and risk factors. A reference period from 2014 to 2023 was observed in this study. The Web of Science Core Collection database was used to filter publications in the field of forestry and ergonomics. A total number of 102 articles were selected. After selection, data regarding publishing year, journal name, main field, country of origin, forest operation, machine/tool, and risk factor were noted. The number of articles is ever-increasing with the last four years having above average numbers of articles. Countries from Europe and South America (Brazil) have the most publications. Most of the journals are ranked in the top 50%. Harvesting, wood extraction, and pre-harvesting operations have the highest number of records. Chainsaw, skidder, and pre-harvesting tools are the most observed means of work. The risk factors with the highest percentage of records are workload (23%), noise (20%), vibration (20%), postural load (16%), and MSD (Musculoskeletal Disorder) occurrence (7%). Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Addressing Forest Ergonomics Issues: Laborers and Working Conditions)
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