Avoid spring-related farmer fatigue

  Spring 2016
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It’s that time of year where farmers are busy preparing for seeding and spring work. They aim to get seed and other inputs into the soil to preserve moisture.

However, with all of the rushing and pushing limits there is a risk of serious injury due to fatigue.

The 2001 Canadian Census of Agriculture found that fatigue is a major factor in causing farm-related injuries.

Many farmers push themselves, especially during the really busy times. Too often, it’s a case of ‘I’m going to finish that field tonight even if it kills me’. Health and safety is a worker’s most valuable asset – nothing should come before.

Often fatigue creeps up on a person and this makes it difficult to recognize. In addition to feeling sleepy and tired, some common symptoms of fatigue include:
  • Headaches, dizziness, blurry vision
  • Slow reflexes and reactions, poor concentration
  • Feeling irritable, moody and short tempered
  • Aching, weak muscles
We often see safety as being all about equipment and guards, but the most important safety tool a person can have is their attitude and subsequent decisions. That could mean taking a 20 minute snooze when you are exhausted, or having another person lined up to spell you off.

It’s important for farmers to recognize things they can do to ward off fatigue:
  • Get adequate sleep. This means parking your worries at the bedroom door and regularly getting a good night’s rest.
  • Eat nourishing food to keep your mind and body sharp.
  • Stay hydrated with plenty of water.
  • Incorporate some healthy activity in your day’s work. Many times spring work equals long hours operating the same equipment. If you find yourself in the cab of a tractor for hours on end be sure to stop periodically and go for a walk to stretch out your muscles.
  • Plan for physical and mental demands. This may mean adding workers to your team to alleviate the demands of spring farm work, keeping a promise to yourself that you will take a well-deserved break after a set amount of time and not making critical decisions while you are weary.
Although the human factor is a significant cause of farm-related hazards your safety is about the choices you make. It just takes a moment to make a decision that could literally be the difference between life and death.
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For more information about the content of this document, contact Kenda Lubeck.
This information published to the web on March 15, 2016.