Farm safety – harvest health

  • Farmer health, wellbeing and safety are often neglected when facing the pressures of harvest
  • Simple safety measures can dramatically reduce the risk of injury and illness
  • When planning for harvest, take time to integrate these measures to protect the health, wellbeing and safety of you, your family and other farm workers.

As harvest approaches, it’s crucial that all machinery is checked to ensure a smooth and timely harvest. But simply mending the header and servicing the tractor won’t cut it if you want to protect the key component – you. Considering your health, wellbeing and safety is so important with the upcoming long hours and pressure to get the job done.

Have a quality harvest this year – don’t compromise your health

Take some time to protect yourself against injury and accidents by planning ahead with these tips.

  1. Check your tractor cabin to make sure you’ve got the right filter in place.

Harvest can be a dusty business so make sure you have an appropriate – and clean – dust filter fitted into your cabin. If you’re using chemicals, an activated carbon filter is recommended. These should be recharged every 6-12 months (or after 400 hours of service). If you have cabin dust, or if you can smell the chemicals you’re spraying, you need to recheck your filter.

  1. Check the safety of your equipment.

Does your auger have a guard in place, and how about the PTO? These two pieces of equipment are the main cause of injury to hands and feet. Also consider the risks unguarded equipment has for children and pets – they don’t understand the equipment you use or how dangerous it can be.

  1. Plan a healthy harvest diet.

Sitting in the tractor or header all day, you won’t need to eat as many calories as you usually would. Have a good breakfast of low-GI carbohydrates (oats, barley- or bran-based cereals, grainy breads, eggs and/or cooked veggies). Don’t skip meals – pack a wholegrain sandwich and some fruit, nuts and veggies to nibble on. Avoid ‘convenient’ snacks like muesli bars, biscuits and chips as these are often high in sugar, salt and saturated fats.

  1. Avoid dehydration.

Plan to drink a few litres of water a day – have plenty of fresh water on hand to make this easy. Doing this will help avoid the constipation that can result from sitting for hours on end. Keep an eye on your urine – if it smells or is dark yellow, you need more water.

  1. Exercise.

Sitting in a bent or rotated position puts you at increased risk for of spinal and joint pain. Plan to make regular stops to get out of the cabin and walk around. Here are some exercises you can do in the cab, too:

  • point your toes and use your big toe to write your name in the air,
  • do some marching on the spot (while sitting down),
  • sit up straight and gently twist side to side,
  • arch your back then straighten up tall, and,
  • turn your head side to side to stretch out your neck muscles.

They might sound a bit silly, but it’s better than a sore neck or lower back pain!

  1. Manage fatigue

Your body needs sleep to regenerate, refresh and repair. Despite the pressure to get the crop off, make silage or hay, you need to plan your sleep so that your mind and body can function properly.

“It sounds basic – and it is,” says Director of the National Centre for Farmer Health, Prof. Sue Brumby. “But it never seems to amaze how many people neglect to do all, or any, of the above. Yet we all know, or know of, someone who has suffered, and suffered badly, during harvest.”

“It might have been an accident because they have fallen asleep, suffered a heart attack, hurt themselves in machinery, or tripped and sprained. With the proper planning, however, nearly all this can be avoided”.

Don’t forget the impact an accident or injury can have on your family and business.

Reduce the risks – plan ahead.


Filters – Click here for useful information and handy tips.

Falls injury prevention, 2006, Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety. Preventing Falls for older farmers booklet – Click here.

Tractor and machinery safety – to make sure you’ve considered everything – Click here.

For lunchbox ideas, visit Diet and Nutrition – Fuelling Farmers’ Lunch Boxes

Stick up our Tractor and Header Exercises sheet in the cabin! Click here

To familiarise yourself with the symptoms and fatigue-management techniques Click here

Related information on other websites

Last updated: 13th February, 2018