PPE and occupational safety, HACCP and food safety

Home / Articles / Hidden medical problems could be serious – Case 1

While I was a General Manager of a 5000 acres cocoa plantation in Sabah many years ago, I came across to this very interesting experience I used to share with people in many occasions.

In the cocoa plantation, we have harvesting workers who contracted cocoa pod harvesting work during the harvesting months. Harvesters were told to harvest only the ripening pods from the trees. The ripening pods must be yellow, red or purple in color. The unripe pods are green. Each harvester was using a pruning secateurs or harvesting tools with a sharp chisel blade and a hook.  The pods harvested by each harvester were piled up at the edge of the planting blocks near the road side for inspection and collection.

Although it is not uncommon to see some green pods harvested due to human error and the Field Conductor normally would alerted the harvesters for the mistakes. In most cases, such mistakes could be verified quickly and effectively.

In one of my regular inspection round, I found a particular pile with many green pods. The Field Conductor in-charged of the harvesting gang was asked for an explanation. The Conductor told me that he has reported the problem to his Supervisor and the harvester was told to harvest only the ripening yellow, red or purple pods.

I noticed that the green pods found in the pile were all in mature size. Immediately, I have the possible answer in my mind but I kept silent. I went into the cocoa block where this worker was harvesting the pods.  I found that there were still many ripening pods on the trees, most of the hidden behind the green or brown leaves, not harvested.  Many of them are yellow, red in colour but smaller in sizes.  This finding further confirmed my answer but I still kept quiet.

I called a meeting in that afternoon. The case was revealed to the Manger and the Assistants. To my surprise, they were all informed about the problem but none of them know the answer.

Being a Biologist as my academic background, I told them the harvester could be colourblinded. The harvester was suspended from the harvesting job and sent to clinic for colour blindness checking.  Sure enough, he is colourblinded.  He simply could not differentiate the red and green.  That is why he kept on harvesting the green pod as long as they are big enough in size.  He must be having great difficulty to identify the ripening pods especially under the dense cocoa canopy with limited penetrating sunlight. Instead of selecting the colours, he went for sizes!

He was finally removed from the harvesting gang.

What will happen if a colour blinded person is not knowing his problem and driving a car facing the traffic light?  I wound be surprise that many people do not know that they are colour blinded unless they go for colour blindness testing.

What will happen if a colour blinded person is posted to a job that require him to act based on colour shown?  Would you send him for colour blindness checking first?

Another interesting story will be posted soon.

Related posts:

  1. Hidden medical problems could be serious – Case 2
  2. Writing Your Factory’s Own Safety Programme
  3. WypAll X80 Colour-Coded Wipers

Leave a Reply

E-mail It