Most Victorian grain growers have begun harvest, and while this period is all systems go, one key element is the human body and keeping it sustained during this time.
Fatigue is a key concern during harvest as the desire to keep the harvester, chaser bin and truck moving increases. While there’s a job to do, growers need to look after themselves. Equally important are farm employees, contractors and inexperienced seasonal workers.
The National Centre for Farmer Heath outlines the symptoms of fatigue as headaches, dizziness, blurry vision; slow reflexes and reactions; poor concentration; feeling irritable, moody and short tempered; aching or weak muscles; feeling tired all over or sleepy; and experiencing micro-sleeps.
While people describe fatigue as a feeling of constant tiredness or weakness, the causes of fatigue can be physical and mental, like exhaustion and stress.
Monitoring your own symptoms, and those of employees and contractors, will help mitigate against greater ongoing issues.
Working in isolation can also exacerbate fatigue. While discussion on the two-way radio is a regular occurrence, ask how employees are feeling, rather than discussing how full the bin is.
The challenge of overcoming fatigue during harvest remains, but the key message is have regular breaks. Harvest is for the long haul, and it’s more a marathon than a sprint.
The National Centre for Farmer Health provides the following guidelines: aim for a good night’s sleep every night; have reliable communications equipment and regular systems to check isolated workers; get regular physical exercise; eat healthy food and drink plenty of water; limit or avoid alcohol or other drugs and reduce caffeine intake.
While there is not a one size fits all approach to fatigue management, being aware and trying to make changes for all involved is the first step. What might seem like stalling harvest is mitigating the potential of someone being seriously injured or hurt because they are exhausted or fatigued.