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Avoid spring-related farmer fatigue

Mar. 29, 2016 - It's that time of year when farmers are busy preparing for seeding and spring work. Regrettably, in the hustle and bustle, there is a risk of serious injury due to fatigue.

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

"Too many farmers push themselves, especially during the really busy times," says Kenda Lubeck, farm safety coordinator for Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. "But nothing should come before a worker's health and safety."

Fatigue often creeps up on a person, so it may be difficult to recognize the onset. In addition to feeling sleepy and tired, some common symptoms of fatigue include:

  • Headaches, dizziness, and blurry vision;
  • Slow reflexes and reactions, and poor concentration;
  • Feeling irritable, moody, and short tempered; and
  • Muscles that are weak/ache.

"We often see safety as being all about equipment and guards" says Lubeck, "but the most important safety tool a person can have is their attitude which ultimately affects their personal safety decisions."

It is important that farmers recognize that they can ward off fatigue by:

  • Getting adequate sleep;
  • Eating nourishing food;
  • Staying hydrated with plenty of water;
  • Incorporating some healthy activity into the day's work, such as periodic walks/stretches; and
  • Planning for physical and mental demands (e.g. adding workers, and not making critical decisions when weary).

Although the human factor is a significant cause of farm-related hazards, 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."