Many people employed in the agriculture industry have a tendency to think of themselves as being somewhere on a scale from ‘tough’ to ‘hardy’.
Yet illness and accidents are far from unknown in agriculture. Some of these arise because of a lack of awareness of the dangers that can be involved.
So to improve your chances of staying healthy and safe when working on farms, it’s worth considering the following:
• Make sure that your tetanus jabs are up-to-date. This disease is primarily linked with wounds that become infected by bacteria in soil and animal waste though it can also be caused by inhalation. Tetanus can make you seriously ill or even prove fatal in some cases. Some other shots might also be a good idea, depending upon where you are and what sort of work you’re engaged in. Check your local medical advice.
• If you do suffer some sort of wound then even if your tetanus shots are up to date, make sure you clean the injury with an appropriate product and dress it with bandages or similar to keep it clean.
• Even the best quality agricultural machinery can be highly dangerous and every year it causes numerous serious accidents. So, make sure you use safety equipment such as heavy-duty gloves, eye/face protection, hearing defenders and steel-capped boots. Remember, your employer may have a legal obligation to provide you with certain types of safety equipment.
• Be certain that you’ve been trained to safely operate the machinery you’re using. Many accidents are caused by misuse due to a lack of awareness and basic training. Don’t just assume you’ll ‘fly it by the seat of your pants’ to find out. A related tip – don’t fiddle or tamper with machinery you don’t understand. If it’s not ‘right’, get an expert to fix it.
• Working with livestock can be surprisingly dangerous. Cattle and pigs, for example, can be highly unpredictable or clumsy – particularly if they panic etc. That can and does kill people, so keep your wits about you. If you’re not very experienced with livestock, make a point of taking advice from older hands who are.
• Use plenty of barrier cream and wear a hat when working in the full sun. That’s to do with skin cancer of course but also make sure you drink plenty of water to keep hydrated.
• The dangers of dust inhalation are often hugely underestimated by people working in agriculture. Spores in hay, irritation caused by harvest dust, animal feedstuff dust – they’re all potentially harmful, particularly on a cumulative basis. The answer’s simple – use an appropriately graded mask.
• Don’t overwork. The links between stress and physical exhaustion to potential coronary incidents is well-known. Obviously many other risk factors come into play also, such as your age, overall health/fitness, weight, lifestyle and to some extent, genetics. Even so, if you’re dog tired then take a break or leave it until tomorrow. Don’t keep pushing yourself through ‘the wall’ day after day and make time for relaxation.
• Listen to your body. If you’re getting regular pain then stop and get it checked out rather than simply assume it’s just a short-term muscular problem. It is probably nothing but it could be something that needs medical attention including things like tendon troubles, vertebrae injuries or vascular problems.
A farm in many respects can be just as dangerous a workplace as a factory. Keep that in mind.