There are a number of factors that determine the length of a farm workday — weather, soil conditions, livestock, equipment — and the farmer may be working against any or all of them when timely planting is on the line. So it’s not surprising that farmers will brush fatigue aside to get the job done.
But that’s when injuries can sneak in, says Kent McGuire, an Ohio State University Extension ag safety educator and Ohio AgrAbility Program coordinator.
“Non-stop activity, long work hours and stress can increase chances of fatigue and injuries, and as your level of fatigue increases, regard for caution and personal safety take a backseat, and that leads to unsafe practices,” said McGuire. “Fatigue can cause slower reaction times, reduced concentration, or even falling asleep on the job, and can lead to injuries.”
Injuries can include equipment pinches, entanglement, burns, tractor rollovers, and other equipment-related incidents.
McGuire offers the following tips to avoid risk of fatigue:
• Get plenty of sleep.
• Avoid thinking about work once you have finished for the day. Engage in an activity that will get your mind off of the tasks ahead.
• Pace yourself and plan out your activities.
• Eat healthy and maintain a normal eating schedule.
• Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Dehydration can cause fatigue.
• Take short breaks throughout the day.
• Get some exercise after sitting over long periods of time. Stretching or even a short walk will get your body moving and re-energized.
• To reduce stress, take a minute to watch wildlife or enjoy nature to help take your mind off of work.
• Take advantage of a rainy day to rest and re-energize.
McGuire said the risk is greatest for farmers and farm workers who have a disability or limitation.
“They can fatigue very quickly and hurt themselves, causing secondary injuries, such as back or joint pain,” said McGuire.