With all the rain we've had this spring it has been too wet for field work much of the time for several weeks now. I'm sure that many of you now have about 2 months worth of work to do in 3 to 4 weeks. This means lots of hours on the tractor or other machines and people will be pushed to the limit. However, we must be careful not to exceed those limits or machine breakdown and personal injury are the likely results.
Very few people can run non-stop 18 to 20 hours per day for days on end without running substantial risks of serious injury or death. It can be from a farm accident due to poor judgment resulting from fatigue or going to sleep while driving a vehicle. I realize that the work still has to be done but there are ways to decrease fatigue and increase alertness and productivity. The following suggestions can help make this busy time of year a little safer for everyone.
Make sure equipment is in good repair. Use weather delays to do preventative maintenance. Make sure lights are in good repair and adequate. Add lights if necessary. Make sure Slow Moving Vehicle signs are in good shape. Make sure harvesting equipment is prepared, as there may not be a break between planting and harvest.
Drink plenty of fluids and eat sensibly. Not all liquids are created equal. Avoid over consumption of caffeine and soft drinks. Water is an excellent source of fluids. Large meals can increase drowsiness. Avoid alcohol.
Take short rest breaks every couple of hours -- get off the tractor or combine and inspect for loose parts, failing bearings, etc. Not only will this increase alertness, it may also head off a serious breakdown.
At the minimum, stop the equipment at least once an hour, lean back, stretch, take several deep breaths. Again, this serves to decrease fatigue and increase alertness.
Avoid the "Gotta Go's". We all find ourselves dropping into the "gotta go, gotta go..." trap when we are pushed. In reality, it's the worst thing that can happen. It gets to the point that all we focus on is "gotta go". We tend to ignore everything but finishing. We clutch the steering wheel with both hands and stare straight ahead. We forget to monitor the equipment, our pulse races, our breathing become shallow and rapid. It is not good for us or our equipment. The only way out is to break the cycle. Stop for a few minutes and calm down. Over consumption of caffeine can make this problem worse.
If you are having trouble staying awake, STOP and take a short nap. It is amazing what a 10 to 20 minute nap can do.
Maintain contact with people in the field. If you have a radio or a cell phone, use it to check in every couple hours. If someone in the field does not answer repeated radio or phone calls, check on them; something may be wrong. If workers do not have a radio or phone, check in on them in the field periodically.
Page 2 of 2 - THINK BEFORE YOU ACT. This will keep you from putting yourself, your family, or your employees in dangerous situations. Most of us know what can happen as the result of unsafe actions but often we just do not think much about it until it is too late.