The nature of much of today’s precision farm work requires a high degree of alertness and the ability to react quickly in certain circumstances. With spring work and the go-time it brings, often farmers push themselves to get the maximum out of a day’s work.
Farm workers pushing their capabilities to the limits to increase production run the risk of serious injury due to fatigue. Turns out, fatigue is a major factor in causing farm-related injuries.
“Too many farmers push themselves, especially during the really busy times and long daylight hours,” says Kenda Lubeck, farm safety coordinator with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. “Personal health and safety is a worker’s most valuable asset - nothing should come before.”
Fatigue is a mental or physical exhaustion that prevents a person from functioning normally. It can often times impair safe work performance. In addition to feeling sleepy and tired, some common symptoms of fatigue include:
- headaches, dizziness or blurry vision
- slow reflexes and reactions
- poor concentration and judgement
- feeling irritable, moody and short tempered
- aching, weak muscles or impaired coordination
“We typically see safety as being all about equipment and guards,” she adds. “But, the most important safety tool a person can have is their attitude and subsequent decisions. That could mean taking a 15 minute break and stretch to refocus or having a drink of water and a quick bite to eat.”
Lubeck offers the following suggestions to ward off fatigue:
- Get adequate sleep. Park your worries at the bedroom door and regularly get 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. If you find yourself doing one continuous job 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. It 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.
“Whether you operate a family farm, employ workers or are helping neighbours, preplanning will go a long way to preventing unforeseen injuries and costly repairs,” she notes.
“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.”
To connect with the Alberta Farm Safety Program: