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Fruit harvesting and packaging

Information about orchard operations, picking and emptying bags, ladders, hydraulic ladders, grading, packing and carton making, pruning equipment and mango picking.

Orchard operations

All tractors must be fitted with a ROPS, including those used in an orchard. However the ROPS can be folded down or removed temporarily if obstructions from low branches and/or hail netting guy wires will interfere with the safe operation of the tractor. Other risk management measures must be in place during this time. The ROPS must be raised again or re-attached when the tractor is being operated elsewhere on the farm.

Learn more about tractor safety and ROPS requirements

Picking and emptying bags

  • Select a bag which is the right size for you or one that is slightly smaller.
  • Make sure the straps are put on properly and adjusted so the bag is comfortable. The straps should be flat on your shoulders or back - not twisted.


Ladders are used for most operations in tree fruit production including picking, pruning and thinning. When using a ladder:

  • choose one that is right for your size, weight and for the trees
  • check the ladder is structurally safe and report any faults to your supervisor
  • make sure spurs are not worn off and if they don't have spurs, use safety chains
  • place the ladder side-on to the tree (front-on can restrict access) in a stable position as close as possible to the highest fruit to be picked
  • stabilise the ladder by pushing the back two legs into the ground using your hands to push down on the rungs
  • climb the ladder with an empty picking bag and pick the fruit furthest away from the ladder first
  • stand underneath the ladder to lift it up and shift it so that you can comfortably reach the target area.

Hydraulic ladders

Ground conditions, height of cradle above ground, weight of fruit in picking bags and structural modifications place limitations on the use of hydraulic ladders in orchards. When using hydraulic ladders:

  • check tyre pressure and oil levels daily
  • lookout for overhead powerlines and avoiding using these ladders during an electrical storm
  • ensure operators are trained and capable of operating hydraulic ladders correctly.


  • Ensure all the guards are in place.
  • Clean regularly around graders and inside guards where squashed fruit or water could cause accidents, fires or breakdowns.
  • Keep power leads uncoiled and away from water.
  • Check around the graders for partially severed power leads or fused motors and use an electrician to fix any problems.
  • Rotate workers doing manual tasks to help reduce muscle strain.
  • Stand on rubber mats to reduce static loads.
  • Use anti-fatigue rubber matting.
  • Ensure conveyor heights suit workers in order to minimise bending and over-reaching.
  • During maintenance, ensure all machinery is turned off and isolated before doing repairs.
  • Be aware of forklifts operating in the shed.

Fruit and vegetable packing

  • Ensure the work area is not cluttered with equipment, boxes, dropped fruit and strapping.
  • Ensure workers wear comfortable closed in shoes with good tread.
  • Support packing tray/box at a comfortable height and have the presentation angle adjustable.

Safe use of pruning equipment

When using secateurs and compressed air pruning guns:

  • know how to use them properly
  • keep the secateurs and guns sharp and free of worn parts
  • prune at a safe distance from co-workers and avoid holding the tree wood you are about to prune
  • make sure the air hose is disconnected before working on pruning guns
  • make sure trigger safety switches are applied when moving the guns between rows and climbing up ladders
  • unplug hoses and release stored air from the compressor during long breaks
  • avoid using compressed air to clean clothing or dust particles from the body.

Mango picking

Mango picking is hot work - avoid heat stress by following the steps below.

  • Always were light clothing, light colours, long sleeves, wrap-around sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat.
  • Apply broad spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen before heading out to work and re-apply every two hours.
  • Drink plenty of water - at least four litres per day.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol as they can contribute to dehydration.
  • After work, get plenty of rest, eat a nutritious meal and drink plenty of water to re-hydrate your body.

Operating machinery

  • Take care around all machinery, especially moving parts.
  • Ensure guards are in place.
  • Do not allow loose clothing or long hair to hang near machinery.
  • Always obey farm rules and signs.
  • If operating grading machines or harvest aids, make sure you are trained in their use and know how to STOP the machine in an emergency.
  • Use tools for their designated purpose only.
  • Pedestrians should always give way and look out for tractors, forklifts, cherry pickers, harvest aids and other farm machinery.

Mango sap and allergies

The sap:

  • When the stem is removed from the fruit, the mango releases a highly caustic sap, this can burn the fruit and your skin.
  • Sap may simply cause irritation to the skin, however some people can have a severe reaction.
  • Avoid sap burn by using good picking and de-sapping practices - the grower or supervisor should provide instructions on how to pick and remove the stem from the fruit (de-sapping).

Picking and de-sapping:

  • When picking mangoes, always wear long pants, long sleeved collared shirt, wide-brimmed hat, 30+ SPF sunscreen, closed-in shoes, gloves and sunglasses.
  • When sorting and packing mangoes, always wear gloves, closed-in shoes, long-sleeved shirt and sunscreen.
  • Always hold the stem end of the fruit away from your body.
  • If you do get sap on your skin, wash immediately with fresh water.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before touching your eyes, face or going to the toilet.

First aid

  • Wash the affected area in soap and water, then immediately rinse thoroughly with clean water.
  • If sap comes into contact with eyes, flush with water for several minutes.
  • Cover the affected area with a clean dressing and protect the skin from further contact with the sap.
  • If irritation persists, consult a doctor or chemist.
  • If you suffer an allergic reaction to mango sap burn, avoid further contact.

Call an ambulance immediately (dial 000) if someone suffers swelling to the face or breathing difficulties.