Pilot study of manual sugarcane harvesting using biomechanical analysis

Clairmont L. Clementson, Alan Christopher Hansen

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


In many countries, sugar cane harvesting is a very labor-intensive activity in which workers usually become fatigued after manually cutting the cane for a few hours. They need frequent pauses for rest, and they experience sustained injuries from excessive stress on the joints and muscles of the body. The cutting tool and motion involved directly influence the stresses created. A cutting tool that has not been designed by taking into consideration occupational biomechanics can lead to unnecessary strains in the body's muscle system, resulting in injuries. The purpose of this research was to carry out a pilot study of the impact of two common manual sugarcane cutting tools and the cutting posture they induce on the body with the aid of biomechanics. The machete and the cutlass from South Africa and Guyana, respectively, were examined to determine the cutting forces. Using static strength prediction modeling, the body stress levels at the point of cut in the cutting motion were determined. The cutting postures of three subjects were contrasted, their extreme postures were identified, and suggestions were made to improve the ergonomics of the cutting activity. The results of this pilot study showed that the cutlass required less cutting force than the machete because of the slicing cut provided by the curved blade edge of the cutlass. However, the biomechanical analysis indicated that the bent blade of the machete required less flexion of the back and therefore was likely to cause less backfatigue and injury. An improved design of the sugarcane manual harvesting tool should incorporate the bend of the machete to reduce flexion and a curved cutting edge that provides a slicing cut.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages12
Specialist publicationJournal of Agricultural Safety and Health
StatePublished - Jul 2008


  • Cutting tool design
  • Ergonomics of cutting
  • Manual sugarcane harvesting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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