Researchers at the Mediterranea University of Reggio Calabria, Italy, set out to demonstrate the impact environmental heat exposure has on labour loss in the vineyard.
The researchers in Calabria claim the global wine industry represents 0.2% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP). They also claim, even with the mechanisation of vineyard work throughout the world, much of the work to produce wine is still manual labour.
Researchers selected Cyprus for the study, where mean temperatures during harvest are above 36°C. According to the researchers, ‘laboratory studies have shown that the above-mentioned amount of thermal strain during grape picking can impair the human physiologic function and capacity to perform prolonged exercise and work.’
The aim of the study was to assess the impact of workplace heat on the work shift time spent performing labour. Time-motion analysis was done by way of a video camera to follow the vineyard workers’ movement and time spent.
The study’s secondary aim was to determine whether environmental seasonal conditions influenced the grape pickers.
The workers monitored for each season comprised of four males and two females, each experienced grape pickers. Analysis highlighted that 12.4% of their total work shift time was spent on irregular work time breaks. There was from 0.6% to 2.1% increase in hourly work time breaks for every degree Celsius increase in air temperature as well as increase in the worker’s skin temperature.
The study concluded that neither monitoring productivity nor the vineyard manager’s estimates reflected the true work time labour in these workers. However, the time-motion analysis accurately evaluated every second spent by each worker and it showed that increased workplace heat led to significant labour loss.