Don’t wreck your wrists pruning vines for wine

Pruning vines can hurt your wrists, hands, shoulders, and back. To prevent injuries, vineyard workers need to use the right tools, take breaks, and more. 

Photo of man pruning grape vine

Photo credit: Demidenko

The B.C. wine industry contributes $2.8 billion* to the economy each year – and none of it would be possible without the people who work in vineyards. Cheers to all who do this hard work!

In the pruning season, these workers spend long hours clipping vines for wines and could surely benefit from the solutions in WorkSafeBC’s Preventing musculoskeletal injuries in vineyard pruning.

This information sheet details how “pruning tasks have long been associated with musculoskeletal injuries (MSIs) to the wrists, hands, shoulders, and back.” To find out more about safety for these agricultural workers, I contacted Ryan Duncan, a regional safety consultant with AgSafeBC.

Translating safety information so all workers understand

Ryan visits vineyards and orchards throughout B.C.’s Interior region. He was in West Kelowna when we talked on the phone. He does education and training for workers on site, many of whom are from Mexico, here on a work visa. Sometimes he brings a Spanish translator.

“I do the presentation in English and they translate it into Spanish as we go along. We need to make sure everyone understands what they’re being trained on,” Ryan says. “We can assist with making sure they understand their right to ask questions and refuse unsafe work. We want them to know there is extra training available if they need it.”

Ryan also works with employers on health and safety programs, general site assessment, planning for training, or help with any other issues or concerns.

How to avoid MSIs while pruning in vineyards and picking fruit in orchards

Ryan says workers often do shifts of six to eight hours during pruning season. And while people are looking at how to avoid wrist injuries, most of the focus tends to be on protecting the back. Obviously that’s important, but so are our wrists and hands.

Says Ryan: “Workers can experience numbness and tingling, and get long-term tendonitis from doing tasks like pruning and fruit picking. I think the wrists and hands are overlooked in some ways because the back is such a big thing. Everyone is worried about the back but so many other MSI injuries can occur besides those to the back.”

Workers can reduce the chance of MSIs while pruning by following this advice:

  • Use proper pruning shears that are angled to keep the wrist in a more neutral position
  • Do a pre-shift stretch and warm-up
  • Take micro breaks that include walking around a little and doing more stretches
  • Drink lots of water and stay well-hydrated

For more information, see these resources:

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