Farming is often a non-stop job and certain times of the year, particularly spring and late summer/early fall, can be even busier. These seasons often involve long hours, physically and mentally demanding work, and looming stress – all of which are risk factors for fatigue.

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

“Safety on farms becomes much easier to manage when everyone is well rested,” explains Jody Wacowich, AgSafe Alberta executive director.

“I know there are seasons in agriculture where it feels impossible to find time for a rest, but even small breaks can help prevent an incident which could force you into a much longer break due to lost people or equipment. “

Did you know:

  • Fatigue is four times more likely to cause worker impairment than drugs or alcohol
  • A fatigued employee is three times more likely to be involved in a workplace incident
  • Fatigue is estimated to cause 20 per cent of all vehicle fatalities
  • Unmanaged fatigue contributes to diabetes, obesity and heart disease

– courtesy AgSafe Alberta

Risk factors for fatigue include long shifts, night shifts, driving requirements, irregular work hours, seasonally high workloads, monotony, chaotic environments, and stress.

The evolution of fatigue

A number of things occur as a person becomes fatigued. First, their level of alertness drops, and they may start acting impulsively or become unmotivated. Next, their ability to focus and concentrate on their tasks may be diminished, and as fatigue fully sets in, their reaction time drops and they may experience blurred vision and start to take micro-sleeps.

Workplace signs to be aware of:

  • Inattentive or ‘zoning out’
  • Difficulty remembering/thinking clearly
  • Struggle to make decisions
  • Clumsy, dropping things, tripping
  • Increased errors in judgement

– courtesy AgSafe Alberta

Avoiding fatigue

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

  • Prioritize sleep
  • Take breaks when possible
  • Pay extra attention during early morning or late-night tasks
  • Rotate tasks to reduce monotony
  • If someone is working alone, check in on them; if you are working alone, ensure someone – a friend, neighbour, family member – checks in on you

To learn more about fatigue factors on the farm please see 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 Farm Safety Webinar Series.