Highlights: Pruning of hardwoods coming from forest plantations is becoming more and more important in Brazil to replace scarce wood from tropical forests; Evaluating productivity of different pruning tools is essential for the economic output of plantations managed for high quality wood; Pruning activities of forest workers can be classified as “hard” or “very hard work”. Depending on the tools used physical long-term damages may be prevented.
For the substitution of wood from tropical rainforests pruning of Eucalyptus for producing valuable hardwoods in short rotation plantations has become important. Existing tools and ergonomic aspects of pruning were not yet well analysed under these conditions. The objective of the study is to evaluate the productivity and ergonomics of three different pruning tools in a pruning lift up to 3 m in height. The trees used in the study came from an 18-month-old clonal Eucalyptus grandis stand planted in a 5.0 x 2.8 m spacing. Two manual pruning tools and an electric shear were tested for productivity by using time studies. Ergonomic aspects were evaluated by two test persons using pulse meter equipment. The highest productivity could be shown for the electric shear (236 trees per working day), followed by the manual shear (196 trees/day) and the handsaw (180 trees/day). The heartbeat rate of the two test persons ranged from a level of “very hard work” for the manual tools to “middle hard” and “hard work” for the electric shear. The workload level to achieve the productivity currently reached in practice using purely manual tools is extremely high, exceeding the permanent working capacity of the operators and leading to physical degradation on the long run.