For the operator

A collection of good advice when it comes to a sustainable workday

Operating a forest machine is a tough job. Here you can learn about the ergonomic challenges. They cover everything from safety to health problems, that may be related to tasks and work postures in the cab and the external environment.

Common problems and solutions

Shock, pinching, crushing and cut injuries

Falling and slipping injuries when climbing on or off the machine. Most common is that these types of injuries occur outside the cab during service and maintenance work. Things to keep in mind: Are the service points centralised and easily accessible to minimise the need to climb up on the machine? Use the intended ladders and platforms for service, and when climbing up or off the machine.

Environmental (inside and outside) problems

Eczema, allergies, headache, fatigue, dizziness, swollen feet, etc. Disorders that clearly show how varying and exposed the operator’s work environment is. Causes: Strong sunlight during the summer, exposure to pollen and exhaust fumes from outside, handling of oils and diesel fuel, etc. Swollen feet and legs are caused by extended sitting that restricts blood circulation from the lower part of the body; the blood stagnates in the feet and legs. Things to keep in mind: Seat type (no edges that block circulation), seat adjustment, sun blinds, pollen filter, etc.

Stress, diet, etc.

Fatigue, headache, upset stomach. The type of problem can depend on many things: For example, stress due to high productivity demands. High demands on concentration; a harvester operator must make up to 100 decisions each minute. Poor diet, food that is too heavy. Things to keep in mind: Dietary and exercise habits, calorie intake versus calorie burning.

Injuries/symptoms related to noise and vibrations.

Modern forestry machines are generally under the limit values for pure noise injuries. But the operators are subjected to several different more or less stressful noises on a daily basis. For example, low frequency noise from the engine and high frequency noise from the hydraulics. The effects can include everything from physical and mental fatigue to decreased performance. Vibrations are also a type of low frequency sound that produces similar effects. Things to keep in mind: Use hearing protection and take opportunities to take breaks from exposure to noise.

Full-body vibrations

Full-body vibrations (FBV) is a known problem area in the operator environment for forestry machines, primarily with forwarders. FBV exposure entails that all or parts of the body are subjected to mechanical oscillations through machine vibrations, shocks and impact. The vibrations are experienced as tiring and with time can produce strain injuries to for example, the back, neck and shoulders. Important factors in preventing and counteracting problems are the operator seats' dampening capabilities and physical exercise. We at Komatsu Forest have taken it a step further through our unique hydraulic cab suspension, Comfort Ride.

Fingers, wrists and mouse arm

When it comes to risks for work injuries to forestry machine operators, a clear trend can now be seen. What was largely a matter of shoulder, neck and back problems in years past, has now shifted to problems with the fingers, wrists and lower arms, as well as diagnoses such as mouse arm and carpal tunnel syndrome. These are caused by the small and monotonous movements that today's joysticks and miniature levers entail. Good measures for reducing risks for injuries are to take micro-breaks and to vary the working posture. For example, by regularly adjusting the position of the armrests.

Lighting/illumination

Lighting that provides good vision is important for forestry machine operators. It is well known that lighting with too low intensity and uneven dispersal can cause fatigue and headaches, especially for older operators who can require up to four times more and stronger light. Moreover, there is a strong connection between light and work posture where insufficient light can lead to sitting incorrectly and with high static muscle tension. This can result in disorders and pain in the back, shoulders and neck.