A Hazard Evaluation in the Apple Warehouse Industry

(NIOSH/CDC, 1997-2000) During the past decade, the apple warehouse industry in Washington state has grown considerably, both in production and technology. Up to 15,000 employees work in warehouses with a large percentage of women. Approximately two-thirds of these workers are of Mexican descent. Both management and labor have identified health and safety concerns in the industry, such as musculoskeletal diseases, carbon monoxide poisoning, and slips and falls. Reported occupational health and safety research and evaluations have, for the most part, taken place in the more traditional and hazardous food processing plants, such as meat packing facilities and canneries. No studies evaluating the hazards associated with manually packing fresh fruit for market and cold room storage have been identified. Our project was designed to characterize and better understand the health, ergonomic, and safety hazards in the Washington apple warehouse industry, and to identify any controls currently in use that are designed to reduce worker injury and illness.