It’s June in Wisconsin. That means, it’s DAIRY MONTH. For many, this month is one filled with trips to the local ice cream shop, sampling of one of the states 600+ types of cheese or experiencing breakfast on a dairy farm.
While many consumers are enjoying dairy products – our nation’s dairy farmers continue to work day in and day out to maintain their dairy farms and care for their cows. It’s easy to work hard on the farm where one chore rolls into the next. Pre-dawn milking, mid-morning feeding, caring for calves, fixing machinery, milking again – and, depending on the season, planting crops or bailing hay – are all included in the day’s work.
Many farmers practice the adage, “A change is as good as a rest.” (For example, if you’re tired of fixing fences, go cut some weeds.) However, this isn’t solid advice – a simple change in activity isn’t great anecdote for fatigue. And, working when you’re worn out can lead to more than just exhaustion; it can lead to serious injury. Improper operation of machinery (specifically tractors) is the most common source of injury on farms. Knowing when fatigue is impacting your ability to safely operate machinery is critical to preventing injuries.
The Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center (UMASH) checklist can help farmers recognize the signs of fatigue and its impact on their safety. According to UMASH, operating machinery when you’re sleep deprived can be as dangerous as operating machinery under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
As the spring workload and longer daylight hours extend work days into work nights, fatigue and tiredness is inevitable. Now is the time to recognize fatigue as a potential source of injury and plan ahead. Consider the few quick reminders that follow, not only during June dairy month but all year long.
Machinery Safety Checklist:
- Make sure all machinery guards and tractor rollover protection devices are in place and in good working order.
- Ensure all operators (of any age) have proper safety training for the farm equipment they are expected to run. Take advantage of available resources – like ISASH2019 – offering relevant training sessions.
- Remind your workers (and yourself) the proper ways of entering and exiting tractors: maintain three (3) points of contact at ALL times – two (2) hands and one (1) foot OR two feet one (1) hand.
- Double check that all lights are functional and all reflectors are in place and clean.
- Use the right equipment for the right job. Wrong equipment or broken equipment doesn’t operate efficiently likely causing more labor (thus fatigue) for you. Work smarter not harder.
Address Root Causes of Fatigue:
- Determine the source of your fatigue – stress, illness, sleep deprivation, etc. – and make an effort to address it directly.
- Eat well, stay hydrated and find ways to minimize stress.
- Throughout the day, give yourself permission to slow down and “take a breather.” Nothing can replace a good night’s sleep and a healthy diet, but taking brief rest periods (micro-breaks) during the day can help you put in a good – and injury free — day’s work.
Reach out to your M3 Account Executive to have a conversation about managing risk on your farm and discuss ways to help ensure your operations remain as safe, productive and profitable as possible.