Avoid harvest-related fatigue

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry
September 17, 2019
By Alberta Agriculture and Forestry
With harvest in full swing in some parts of the province, farmers need to be aware of the risks associated with worker fatigue.

“Too many farmers push themselves, especially during the really busy times,” says Kenda Lubeck, farm safety awareness co-ordinator with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. “Too often, it is a case of ‘I am going to finish that field tonight no matter what.’ Health and safety is a worker’s most valuable asset - nothing should come before.”

Many times, fatigue creeps up on a person, which 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,” she says. “But, the most important safety tool a person can have is their attitude and subsequent decisions. It could mean taking a 20 minute snooze when you are exhausted, or having another person lined up to spell you off.”

Lubeck offers the following suggestions to ward off fatigue:
  • Get adequate sleep. Park your worries at the bedroom door and get a good night’s rest on a regular basis.
  • 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 fall 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. It may mean adding workers to your team to alleviate the demands of harvest work. Keep a promise to yourself that you will take a well-deserved break after a set amount of time and not make 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,” she adds. “It just takes a moment to make a decision that could literally be the difference between life and death.”

For more information on farm safety best practices, visit Alberta’s Farm Safety online resources.

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