Ergonomics Lessons from Farmers

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In the spirit of National Farm Safety Week, let’s take a look at what we can learn from all of the tasks a farmer tackles in a day, such as driving a tractor, operating power and hand tools, hauling hay and harvesting crops. There are many hazards associated with each of these tasks. And there’s one hazard category these tasks all have in common: ergonomics.

People who work on a farm are particularly susceptible to many ergonomics-related injuries (musculoskeletal disorders or MSDs). Some of the high risk farm jobs include:

  • Pesticide dispensing and hand tool use can cause repetitive strain injuries in the hands and arms.
  • Tractor driving can cause lower back problems.
  • Power tool use can cause vibration injury and carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Heavy lifting can cause cumulative back injury.
  • Hand-harvesting and gardening can cause back damage and neck pain.

Reducing the Risks

There are plenty of practices that farmers can employ to reduce their risks of MSDs. These strategies are useful for not only those who work on a farm, but also for all workers generally.

1. Give It Time

  • Work at a speed that’s efficient but not frantic.
  • Give your body brief intervals of rest. For example, if your job involves stooping or squatting, take a few seconds every few minutes to stand up straight.
  • Take breaks in which you stop working, have some food and stretch your back, shoulders and arms.

2. Be Choosy About Tools

  • Use hand tools that are shaped to protect your hands from excessive bending, pressure or impact.
  • Arrange your workspace so that the tools you use most often are within easy reach.
  • Use padding and anti-shock gloves for tools that vibrate.
  • Use equipment such as a tractor or hand truck instead of moving heavy items by hand.

3. Exercise

  • Follow a regular exercise routine through the week to strengthen muscles.
  • Warm up your muscles before exercise or strenuous work.
  • Stretch after each workout and several times a day on the job.
  • Watch your weight to minimize strain on your body.

4. Follow These Standard Practices

  • Lift with your legs, not your back.
  • Switch tasks throughout the day.
  • Stand and sit with good posture.