For farmers seeding and harvest are a couple of extremely busy times of the year. One of the most important things to consider looking after, during these times, is our most valuable resource – us.
Having to complete tasks by a set date imposes time pressure and this may make us take short cuts and if we take short cuts regarding our wellbeing it increases our risk factors dramatically. It is a time when relationships come under pressure, our physical health is ignored, and accidents can happen.
Research into truck crashes by the Truck Crash Research Centre based in South Australia has some thought-provoking outcomes. One of the research outcomes is that most truck accidents (more than 90%) happened on the outward-bound journey of the truck trip. We need to ask ourselves why is this? There are many reasons for this, but primarily it is a combination of being physically tired coming off the holiday break and/or mentally our headspace is not focused on the job at hand, we are not operating in the present.
What us blokes don’t do well is consider the consequences of risk taking – it won’t happen to me. Consequences are something we must live with, so in our seeding and harvest preparations we need to limit our personal risk, and if what we’re planning is an overstretch, reconsider the options.
In addition to the usual preparations perhaps we should follow the lead of other industries, such as mining and construction, where clear guidelines on safe parameters for work have been implemented.
Some things to reflect on when considering your wellbeing include:
- A well briefed work crew (often our partner and family). Keep those working with us briefed on daily activities, unfortunately with farming this doesn’t happen as well as it could which often leads to unnecessary disputes and increased tension and frustration;
- Fatigue management; limiting our working time to no more than 14 hours in a 24-hour period. Seeding might be over a relatively short period, but this work strategy should not be compromised. The only solution to fatigue is taking a break and sleeping. Getting off the tractor/machine and doing other jobs is not good enough, you need to sleep.
- Factor in regular breaks; this also reduces the impact of fatigue and increases our capacity to beat boredom, which can often lead to expensive mistakes and machine damage;
- Pre-start exercises; I would be surprised if any farmers begin a shift with some limbering up exercises. It is a known fact that this type of start to the day significantly reduces muscle injuries.
- Suitable dietary needs; how often are you eating and what are you snacking on? It is not just about good meals it is also about good snacks that are nutritious and correctly timed. A good meal is very beneficial at the beginning of a shift and a light meal at the end is beneficial in helping to promote good sleep.
- Adequate sleep; for most people this is about seven to eight hours in every 24-hour cycle. It is not possible to reduce this and still function properly. Remember this is sleep not just being in bed!
Seeding and harvest are hectic times of the year, a controlled and planned approach will pay dividends. Enjoy it, it is a great time.
The Regional Men’s Health Initiative