Farming often involves working long hours, with few breaks and some levels of stress and fatigue are often accepted as part of the day to day work. Early mornings milking, calving & lambing times, long days harvesting, there never seems to be a shortage of work to be done around the farm. The combination of long hours, labour shortages and increased pressure can lead to fatigue on the farm. Fatigue can cause your situational awareness to decrease and could end up costing you greatly in the end.
What Causes Fatigue?
There are many different factors that can contribute to increased fatigue on the farm, these include:
- Poor diet or lack of eating
- Poor sleeping patterns
- An increased workload
- Working long(er) hours
As a farmer, you may be reading through this list and think “All of those apply to me”! Farming is one of the most physically and mentally demanding jobs there is. As a farmer, this means you need to pay extra attention to how much stress your day to day work puts on your mind and body. Being aware of your overall health can help you adjust and reduce the risk of a greater injury.
Signs of Fatigue
Stress and fatigue are key factors to many farming accidents each year. When you are fatigued, your ability to interpret and understand current situations and anticipate future events or consequences is greatly diminished.
- Are you getting enough sleep?
- How are your current stress levels?
- Are you more irritable?
- Is something particular weighing on you?
- How are you feeling?
- Unable to concentrate
- Slower reaction time
- Avoiding social situations
- Increasingly short tempered
Being able to identify when fatigue is impacting your work can reduce the chances of an accident. The list above can provide a guide of a few things to look for if you believe fatigue is impacting your work or personal lives.
How to Combat Fatigue?
Farming involves physically demanding work and the uncertainty of breakdowns or weather delays. Being fatigued can drastically reduce your reaction time and knowing how to stay ahead of it could mean avoiding a costly accident.
On the Farm Steps:
- Pay specific attention to early morning and late-night tasks
- Slow down to be more mindful
- Rotate through chores to avoid boredom
- Double-check to avoid costly mistakes
- Avoid “I know we shouldn’t do it this way, but it’s faster”
- Promote active communication through the day
Off the Farm Steps
- Get enough sleep
- Pay attention to your diet
- Take a break
- Exercise, read a book or find another way to switch off
- Hydrate – with more than just coffee
- Stay connected to family and friends
Safety on the farm should always be your number one priority. Farming is a non-stop job, there is always something else to fix or work on and it can seem at times like there is a never-ending workload. A diminished ability to make safe decisions, reduced attention spans and decreased reaction time can not only lead to an injury, but also a loss of production. Recognizing when we need a break or some additional help is a great first step in combatting these negative effects of fatigue.