Here is an article by Living the Country Life about avoiding fatigue during long days on the tractor. With planting season upon us, and especially given that a lot of us got a late start this year, there is a lot of pressure to spend every minute possible putting seed in the ground. No matter what your job is, taking a 10 minute break every few hours helps prevent mistakes. This is admittedly something I’m guilty of too. I spent 5 hours straight grading exams a week or so ago and then had to spend another 1 1/2 hours later in the week double checking some of my work because after about the 3 hour mark I started making mistakes. Tractor driving fatigue can result in less than optimal performance, and can also have serious consequences when it comes to safety. Recharging yourself mentally doesn’t take long. Either short 5 minute breaks every hour or longer 10-15 minute breaks every 2 or 3 hours is enough help clear your head, and can also help prevent back pain, hearing damage, and other issues associated with sitting in a loud vibrating environment for hours on end. You can also think of a tractor break as an opportunity to take care of other kinds of tasks. Make some phone calls, check the weather or markets, have some water or a snack, walk around and check your equipment (spotting problems early can also save time, save money, and improve safety). Taking a break from driving doesn’t mean that you have to sit and do nothing. In fact, doing something that involves getting up and moving around is better than doing nothing during a break.
Today I thought I would share this article from the Marshfield Clinic on preventing back pain. Short-term and long-term back pain are very common in people whose jobs involve a lot of lifting or operating heavy machinery. When people talk about preventing back pain, they often talk about lifting with your legs or wearing a back brace. These things can help, but the best way to prevent back pain is to minimize how much lifting and carrying you do in the first place. For example, rather than carrying buckets back and forth by hand over long distances, put them in a wagon or use a vehicle to transport them. We’ve been using an old lawnmower with a utility wagon to transport feed across the yard and it’s been working well. Even small reductions in lifting and carrying can add up over time!
One major cause of lower back pain that isn’t covered in as much detail is full body vibrations caused by operating heavy machinery. One of the professors in the biomedical engineering department here has been studying ways to prevent back pain in truckers. Installing shock absorbing seats seems to help somewhat (click here to see some examples of shock absorbers for tractors). However, like with lifting-related back pain the best prevention is to try to reduce or eliminate exposure to the vibration. In a lot of cases it isn’t practical to avoid vibration completely, but even taking a break for 5 minutes every hour or so and rotating operators if possible so that one person isn’t taking on all of the vibration can help. Like with lifting, even reducing your exposure a little bit here and there can add up over time!