Take the signals of fatigue seriously

30 Dec, 2011 07:05 AM
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WITH wet weather holding up harvest in many regions of Australia farmers are being reminded of the dangers that fatigue can bring when working long hours.

Harvesting delays and downgrades to hay and wheat quality will be causing some growers increased stress and frustration and many will be preparing to work long days when conditions permit.

Sheila Payne, Executive Officer of Farmsafe WA Alliance, said during these long shifts under pressure, growers should be mindful of the increased risk of accidents, which can cause injury to operators or damage to equipment that will set them further back.

“Growers should practice ways of dealing with tiredness to prevent fatigue, which is a hazard in the workplace,” Sheila said.

“Encouraging staff to do the same will promote a safety culture and it could prevent expensive damage to equipment and downtime getting it fixed.”

Body chemicals and hormones have a direct impact on physical energy levels and when muscles are weak and blood circulation is poor, energy production is lower and this makes the body feel tired. Typical causes of physiological fatigue are a lack of sleep, loud noises, poor working conditions and extreme temperatures.

Sheila said steps can be taken to deal with physiological tiredness to lessen the risk of accidents during a shift, including:

  • Stretching and exercising before long periods of work. This will increase blood circulation, oxygen levels and muscle temperature.
  • Plan a rest break during mid-morning and mid-afternoon.
  • Change positions while in the cab to increase blood circulation and practice shoulder shrugs to relieve upper chest and shoulder tension.
  • Stand up, breath and stretch at the end of the harvest row or round.
  • Eat energy producing snacks throughout the day.

    Psychological fatigue on the other hand can be caused by mental factors such as frustration, difficult decisions, conflicts, delays and even boredom.

    Complex decision making can lead to sleeplessness and one of the worst features of mental work is that it keeps a person in a state of excitement late into the evening, which can prevent sleep.

    “Restful and efficient sleep occurs when the body is rested before trying to sleep. Prepare for sleep by slowing down your level of thinking before retiring for the night,” Sheila said.

    Emotional strain also produces weariness. Anger, fear or rage sends adrenaline through the body, which increases breathing and heart rate and when the adrenaline stops the body experiences exhaustion.

    “When fatigue hits, it is important to rest straight away. If ignored, it will defeat even the strongest of people in the end,” Sheila said.

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