Keeping a spring in your step as work ramps up

Keeping a spring in your step as work ramps up

25 August 2019

Spring officially arrives this month and with twice daily milking getting underway, it’s all hands to the pump on dairy farms – and a good time to think about managing fatigue.

“Farming is always going to be arduous,” says Al McCone, Agricultural Sector Lead for WorkSafe.

“But if people are pushing themselves too hard, for too long, that can have a negative impact on not only their own health, but the farm business.

“People who are tired, hungry or dehydrated may be more prone to making mistakes due to slower or diminished decision-making. That can result in damage to equipment, or worst of all, an injury or fatality,” he says.

September sees the highest number of ACC claims for injuries caused by being hit or bitten by animals on New Zealand farms – with around 1,397 cases in total. “Some of that may be down to working at closer quarters with stock as milking ramps up,” says Al.

“However, fatigue can also play a part. James Robertson, who recently won the FMG Young Farmer of the Year national title, made a very good point about this in a case study for WorkSafe.

“He talked about how his father suffered a broken thumb due to being kicked by a cow on the family dairy farm and outlined the pressure the injury put on the farm business, with everyone else having to work harder as the injury put his father out of the dairy shed for several weeks.

“But James noted time had been a factor in the incident, and it made the family start to recognise fatigue as a risk factor.

To quote James; ‘Before Dad got hurt, there was a sense you hadn’t done enough work if you didn’t get home exhausted. The accident was a wake-up call; we started focusing on doing things right and doing them well, without putting ourselves at risk’.”

The number of injuries involving vehicles also begins to rise in spring. A vehicle or machinery is almost always a factor in fatal workplace accidents on farms. The highest number of workplace accident fatalities in agriculture are also in the ‘65 and over’ age group, followed by the ‘55-64’ age group.

“Again, that suggests fatigue is a factor,” says Al. “It’s important to identify risks on your farm, like large animals, large machinery, chemical use and challenging terrain and to decide how to best manage those. But you should include fatigue in that too and take it into account when planning rosters.

“Keep an eye out for signs your team are getting fatigued and be kind to yourself too. Because if a key person is laid up crook, then productivity is likely to suffer.”

Article supplied by Worksafe