Did you know that fatigue is a major factor in causing farm-related injuries? Many farmers push themselves, especially during the really busy times such as full harvest.

While many people will think of fatigue as being tired, sleepiness is only one symptom. Watch for headaches and dizziness, poor concentration, slow reflexes, feeling irritable, and aching muscles. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety states that fatigue is more common during extended periods of stress or anxiety, prolonged mental or physical work and while doing repetitive tasks. Farmers will recognize this list as conditions that are often present during harvest.

It is important for farmers to recognize the signs of fatigue and take steps to ward it off, such as:

  1. Get adequate sleep. The human body requires rest and it will eventually take it with or without your permission. Scientists have observed people experiencing microsleeps of up to 10 seconds, sometimes with the subject completely unaware of the episode. This is harmless at home in front of the TV but can be deadly while operating machinery.
  2. Eat nourishing food. Good food helps in maintaining good all-around health and promotes physical strength. A healthy body has more resilience and stamina.
  3. Stay hydrated. Experts agree that even mild dehydration affects how we feel and think. At least 2 liters of water per day is recommended for most adults.
  4. Find a way to exercise even if it is just stretching your arms and legs while you’re in the combine. Moderate exercise increases energy rather than depleting it.
  5. Realize when you have had enough and turn the operation over to someone else or simply take a break.

Individuals suffering from fatigue will be less able to make decisions, more likely to engage in risky behavior, have slower reaction times and experience stress more acutely. Taking time for self-care during the harvest season is a decision that can reduce incidents, injuries and lost work time.