News

Fatigue

fatigue

Fatigue can lead to serious risks for farmers.  Fatigue can have both physical and mental causes and can be described as a feeling of constant tiredness or weakness.  It’s not the same as feeling drowsy, or tired after a busy day. It’s more a feeling of pushing yourself through the day, every day.

Farmers, particularly during busy times of the year, often work long hours, don’t have time to unwind and then have problems sleeping when they do get to bed. This cycle can lead to fatigue; however, it can also be caused by many other issues.

Keep in touch
Farmers often work alone, this, combined with fatigue, can be a dangerous combination. It is important to keep in touch with family, neighbours or colleagues.

Every farm business should have reliable communications equipment and a regular system of checking on isolated workers, as well as an emergency plan, should anyone come to harm.

Working on a farm can be dangerous and fatigue can lead to accidents. Remember to look after your body as well as your farm.

Symptoms

Some symptoms of fatigue include:

  • Headaches, dizziness, blurry vision
  • Slow reflexes and reactions, poor concentration
  • Feeling irritable, moody and short tempered
  • Aching, weak muscles
  • Feeling tired all over or sleepy
  • Micro-sleeps

Causes

Fatigue can be caused by:

  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Working long hours eg.  during harvesting
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Not eating well
  • Grief and loss
  • Some illnesses or medications
  • Alcohol or drug use

If you are sleeping and eating well but still feel constantly tired, it’s important to seek medical advice because it could be caused by an undiagnosed illness which may require treatment.

Tips that may help

  • Aim for a good night’s sleep every night
  • Have reliable communications equipment and a regular system to check isolated workers
  • Get some regular physical exercise
  • Eat healthy food and drink plenty of water
  • Limit or avoid alcohol and other drugs
  • Reduce caffeine intake (tea, coffee, cola etc)

Fatigue

Fatigue can mean feeling tired, sleepy or lacking energy. Fatigue may be due to medical causes, lifestyle or emotional concerns or stress. Depression, anxiety or grief can all cause fatigue. Too little or too much sleep can cause fatigue. Medical causes of fatigue may include flu, glandular fever, anaemia, sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea or restless leg syndrome, CFS/ME (formerly known as chronic fatigue syndrome or myalgic encephalopathy), hypothyroidism, heart problems, cancer and other conditions.
Find out more about this topic on Better Health Channel

References used for this topic page

More information:

Accident Compensation Corporation (NZ)
Managing Fatigue for the Farmer [PDF 304kb]

National Heavy Vehicle Register (2015)
Fatigue management for farmers

WorkCover Queensland
Fatigue

FarmSafe Alliance WA
Fatigue

Medline Plus
Fatigue

WorkSafe Victoria
Fatigue prevention in the workplace [PDF 3.75mb]

Research & reviews:

Australian Department of Infrastructure & Regional Transport
OR 23: Fatigue-related crashes: An analysis of fatigue-related crashes on Australian roads using an operational definition of fatigue

Occupational and Environmental Medicine
The impact of overtime and long work hours on occupational injuries and illnesses: new evidence from the United States

Fast facts:

Fatigue

  • Fatigue is more than tiredness, it happens when you feel like you always lack energy.
  • Farmers are at increased risk from the effects of fatigue because they work with machinery and animals which require them to be 100% alert all the time.
  • Take some time to relax before you go to bed, eat a healthy diet, drink water and make sure you get some physical exercise.

Last updated: 5th December, 2016