Avoid harvest-related fatigue


Source: Alberta Agriculture and Forestry

With harvest in full swing, 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 coordinator for Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. ‘Too often, it’s a case of ‘I’m 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 and this makes it difficult to recognize. In addition to feeling sleepy and tired, some common symptoms of fatigue include:

  • headaches, dizziness and 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. That could mean taking a 20 minute snooze when you are exhausted, or having another person lined up to spell you off.’

She offers these suggestions that farmers can do to ward off fatigue:

  • Get adequate sleep. This means parking your worries at the bedroom door and regularly getting a good night’s rest.
  • 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. This may mean adding workers to your team to alleviate the demands of harvest work, keeping a promise to yourself that you will take a well-deserved break after a set amount of time, and not making 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.’


To connect with the Farm Safety Program:

Hours: 8:15 am to 4:30 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Phone: 310-FARM (3276)
Email: farm.safety@gov.ab.ca