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close this bookSpecial Public Works Programmes - SPWP - Planting Trees - An Illustrated Technical Guide and Training Manual (ILO - UNDP, 1993, 190 p.)
close this folder9. Working conditions
View the document(introduction...)
View the document9.1 Hours of work and rest
View the document9.2 Nutrition and amenities
View the document9.3 Wage systems
View the document9.4 Training, job content and labour-management relations
View the document9.5 Safety



Productivity can be raised substantially through relatively small investments to improve working conditions. Working conditions include:

- hours of work and rest;
- nutrition and amenities;
- wage systems;
- training, job content and labour-management relations;
- safety.

9.1 Hours of work and rest

Planting is heavy and strenuous work. Rest should therefore be taken for five to ten minutes every hour. Shade and shelter from rain and strong winds should be provided on the planting sites for use during breaks. If it is hot, work should be carried out during the cooler morning hours or in the afternoon.

Working conditions

Working time

Nutrition and amenities

Wage system



Shelter during breaks

Avoid heat

9.2 Nutrition and amenities

Safe drinking water should be available in sufficient quantity, especially during hot weather. Water should be drunk frequently in small quantities. In hot surroundings it may be necessary to drink 5 litres or more during a day. To replace salt lost by sweating, 1 gram of salt may be added to one litre of water.

Planting is heavy work and the worker will need food at regular intervals. Workers suffering from malnutrition cannot sustain this kind of work. If the workforce is large enough, traditionally acceptable food should be provided on site. This will ensure that the workers receive a balanced diet suitable for their work. This will raise productivity and decrease the number of accidents and absenteeism from work. It may be difficult to introduce a change of eating habits because of traditional customs or for religious reasons. However, workers usually respond favourably to measures for the improvement of food supplies.

If possible, transport should be provided for workers between the dwelling and the plantation areas, to save time and energy if the worksite is distant. Loads carried over longer distances should not exceed 10-15kg.

The workers should be provided with appropriate tools (see page 124). They should be equipped with adequate footwear and protection from the rain. A wide-brimmed hat provides protection from the sun.

Nutrition and amenities

Sufficient water supply

Drink frequently

Add salt


Regular food supply is needed for heavy work

Transport of workers

Tools adapted to body size

Adequate clothing


Wide-brimmed hat


When too much time would be required for transport to a distant site, it is better to build camps near the worksite.

Camp sites must be carefully located in healthy, pleasant surroundings. They should be some distance from noisy, dusty roads and in a well-drained place.

Adequate water supply is crucial. Piped water to which taps and showers can be connected is preferable.

Sleeping quarters must provide sufficient air and floor space and be screened from mosquitoes.

Kitchen facilities, which may be combined with a canteen, should be kept separate. Food storage and preparation require greatest care. There should always be a plentiful supply of clean drinking water.

Proper toilet facilities and adequate disposal of waste and sewage are indispensable to prevent the spreading of diseases.

Remote camps should have a health dispensary.


Adequate water supply

Sleeping quarters in pleasant surrounding

Kitchen facilities


Adequate toilet facilities and waste disposal


9.3 Wage systems

Where no heavy machinery is used, about three-quarters of the cost of establishing a plantation costs for wages. Fair wages are a strong motivator for work and an essential requirement for job satisfaction. Wages can be determined in different ways. The different forms have a strong influence on productivity and the quality of work.

Time wages are payment according to the time worked. They may be used for foremen and motivated workers and for all work tasks for which worknorms are difficult to establish, such as transport of plants or plantation maintenance. It is also probably more appropriate to pay wages on a time basis for operations where quality is more important than speed.

In task work a wage is paid once a specific task has been accomplished. This enables the. worker to go home earlier and to do other work.

Piece work means that the worker is paid for a certain output (e.g. per 1,000 seedlings planted or per hectare weeded). The piece rate (worknorm) is the payment per unit output. Piece work enables the worker to increase his earnings by working harder. Productivity is usually higher than under time-based wages. The piece rate has to be set carefully to motivate the worker to be productive without being careless. The quality of the work, which is crucial for the survival of the trees and the success of the plantation, must not decrease. To consider quantity more important than quality when planting trees is expensive in the long run. The risk of an increased number of accidents or excessive strain should also be taken into consideration.

When a bonus system of payment is used, the salary can partly be based on the time worked and partly on quality of the work, e.g. the survival of the plants. Incentive wages make the work of the supervisor easier as the worker is self-motivated. The supervisor becomes more of a quality controller.


Time wage

Task wage


No bonus


Manner of payment

Payment need not necessarily all be made in cash. It can also be partly in kind, often in the form of food. Usually food is given in the form of rations for the household but it could also be in form of free meals on the worksite. International labour standards state that 50 per cent of the wages or more should always be payed in cash. This will ensure that workers are able to meet then: non-food needs.

To support a large-scale plantation programme, big amounts of food are brought into an area. If workers have to sell substantial quantities of this food to get cash, this may influence the price of agricultural products and be a threat to the agriculture in the area.

Other forms of payment in kind are less common but may be very attractive to the workers. These could include good tools and agricultural implements, seed material, and so on, to which the local population might not otherwise have access.

Payment in kind

At least 50 % of the wage should always be payed in cash

Distribution of food rations

Food distribution at worksite

9.4 Training, job content and labour-management relations

Training of workers

Instruction is important. The quality of planting improves when workers are well instructed and well motivated.

Basic instruction and training should be carried out in small groups so that activities can be well explained and shown in detail. It should start early so that no time is lost when the planting season begins. The training should include general information on the objective of the plantation. The training programme should be designed to update the skills of the workers and foremen regularly. No matter how experienced the workers are, instruction in the correct techniques should be repeated every season.

Instruction should be practical and consist of five steps: explanation, demonstration (by instructor), imitation (by the trainee), correction (by instructor), practice and improvement (by trainees). Common mistakes should be mentioned and opportunities for questions given. Experienced workers have often found better ways to do a job. They should be encouraged to contribute their knowledge. When new methods, tools or equipment are introduced training is particularly important. Through training, the need for the changes can be explained and the new methods learned.

Everyone involved in the operations should know where his/her responsibilities begin and end. If everyone is sure of the contents of his/her job, the work will run more smoothly. The training of foremen should include safety aspects and first aid.

With competent workers, job rotation and job enlargement are possible. In job rotation, two teams or two workers change jobs at regular intervals, e.g. distributing seedlings, digging holes and planting. In job enlargement, a larger number of different tasks is given to the worker or the team, e.g. planning, digging holes and planting. This makes the work more varied and interesting and reduces the need to spend prolonged periods in unfavourable working positions and/or carrying heavy workloads.

Training of workers

Small group instruction

Practical demonstration


Discussion, questions and ideas

Different training steps

Job rotation: changing jobs at regular intervals

Job enlargement: a larger number of different tasks are carried out by one worker

Labour-management relations

For planting work temporary workers are usually hired. It is essential to explain carefully all the general working conditions: who is responsible, the, duration of working time, how the wage is calculated, possible entitlement to social benefits, the basic safety requirements, and the long-term purpose of the work.

Mutual understanding and an open dialogue between management, supervisors and workers are the basis for efficient work and satisfied workers. If two-way communication exists between workers and management, the work needs less supervision and there is greater flexibility in work organization.

In many developing countries forestry and agricultural workers do not belong to a trade union which settles basic labour matters by means of a collective agreement. In the absence of trade unions, workers on large-scale projects may form a workers' council and select a spokesperson to discuss with a representative of management the problems which may arise.

Labour-management relations

Temporary workers are hired

One-way information

Less supervision with open two-way communication


Spokesperson for larger-scale projects

9.5 Safety

First aid

Planting is often carried out in remote areas with limited access to medical help. All foremen should undergo instruction in first aid. At each worksite a first aid box should be available, containing adhesive plaster, bandages, sterile compresses, triangular bandages, safety pins, a pair of scissors, forceps, a disinfectant and a short first-aid guide written in the local language.

Minor open wounds should be dressed with adhesive plaster to prevent infection. Triangular bandages are used to support injured limbs or to dress other parts of the body.

In the case of a larger open wound which bleeds heavily, the wound should be covered by sterile compresses. A pressure cushion should be placed on top (a roll of bandage, a small piece of bark or wood, or a small, smooth stone). This should be tightly fixed with a roll of bandage or a triangular bandage, and the injured part of the body should be raised high.

Broken limbs should be fixed by means of splints.

Transporting severely injured persons to the roadside must be done with the greatest of care. Stretchers for transport can be made from wooden poles (or long tool handles) and plastic sacks or jackets.

First aid

First aid box

Adhesive plaster

Triangular bandages

Dressing open wounds

Raise injured part high

Fix broken limbs by means of splints

Stretchers for transport made from sacks or jackets

Using chemicals

If chemicals (insecticides, pesticides or herbicides) or chemically treated plants are being used, they must be handled with care and used correctly to avoid injury to people or the environment. The workers must be made aware of the risk of poisoning. Protective clothing (mask, apron, rubber gloves and boots) should be supplied to all people handling and applying chemicals and the following basic rules must be observed.

- Bare skin should never come into contact with the chemicals.

- Do not eat, drink or smoke when applying pesticides.

- Always spray in the direction in which the wind is blowing.

- Change gloves often and wash gloves every day.

- Clean sprayer and containers after work; wash hands and face with soap.

- Do not spray chemicals close to lakes or rivers.

- The packaging in which the pesticides came should be destroyed and under no circumstances should it be used for other purposes.

- Store chemicals out of the reach of children and animals.

- Symptoms of poisoning are: dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, watering of the eyes and tiredness. If one of the symptoms occurs, immediately stop working and rush to the doctor.

- If medical attention is needed, show the doctor the label of the pesticide package.

Using chemicals

Protective clothing

No eating, drinking or smoking

Spray in wind direction


Destroy packages

Store safely

In case of accident, show the doctor the label

Common mistakes with regard to working conditions

Insufficient training on safety and the ergonomic aspects of the work. Poor working conditions and malnutrition leading to low productivity.