Tips for managing fatigue on the farm

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Fatigue can cause significant safety issues in all industries, and agriculture is no exception.

“Farm safety becomes much easier to manage when everyone is well rested,” says Jody Wacowich, General Manager of AgSafe Alberta.

“I know there are seasons in farming when it seems impossible to find time to rest, but even small breaks can help prevent an incident that could force you into a much longer break due to the loss of people or equipment.”

Did you know:

  • Fatigue is four times more likely to cause work disability than drugs or alcohol
  • A tired employee is three times more likely to be involved in a workplace incident
  • Fatigue is estimated to be the cause of 20% of all vehicle fatalities
  • Unmanaged fatigue contributes to diabetes, obesity and heart disease

– courtesy of AgSafe Alberta

Fatigue risk factors include long shifts, night shifts, driving demands, irregular work hours, high seasonal workloads, monotony, chaotic environments, and stress.

The evolution of fatigue

A number of things happen when a person becomes fatigued. First, their level of alertness drops and they may begin to act impulsively or become unmotivated. Then their ability to focus and concentrate on their tasks may be diminished, and as fatigue sets in, their reaction time decreases and they may experience blurred vision and begin to take micro-sleeps.

Workplace signs to know:

  • Inattentive or ‘zoned out’
  • Difficulty remembering/thinking clearly
  • Struggle to make decisions
  • Clumsy, drops things, stumbles
  • Increase in errors of judgment

– courtesy of AgSafe Alberta

Avoid tiredness

There are steps you can take to avoid fatigue on the farm, even during busy seasons.

  • Prioritize sleep
  • Take breaks when possible
  • Pay special attention when performing tasks early in the morning or late at night
  • Rotate tasks to reduce monotony
  • If someone is working alone, check them out; if you work alone, make sure someone – a friend, neighbor, family member – is watching you

To learn more about on-farm fatigue factors, please view the AgSafe Alberta webinar Waking up to fatigue factors on the farm. Additional videos from the Growing Farm Safety webinar series can be viewed at Growing Series of Farm Safety Webinars.

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