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Farmers play key role in fatigue management project

The Fleurieu App

Staff Reporters

05 July 2024, 3:00 AM

Farmers play key role in fatigue management projectPhoto credit: Agrifutures

In an exciting development for local agriculture, farmers on the Fleurieu Peninsula and Kangaroo Island will contribute to a groundbreaking initiative aimed at managing fatigue on farms.

This project, led by the Rural Safety & Health Alliance (RSHA), seeks to understand, measure, and mitigate fatigue, enhancing safety, productivity, and wellbeing across the agricultural sector.

The "Farming and Fatigue: Growing Sensible Solutions" project is a collaborative effort between the Appleton Institute, CQUniversity Australia's Ag Education and Extension team, and AgHealth Australia at The University of Sydney.

This team will investigate the causes and impacts of fatigue on farms, aiming to develop practical, user-friendly guidance tailored to the unique demands of farming life.

Professor Sally Ferguson, Director of the Appleton Institute, emphasises the project's significance: "The mining industry has long analysed work-induced fatigue to enhance safety and performance.

"We're applying similar principles to farming to help producers manage their fatigue more effectively without overhauling their entire schedules."

The initiative acknowledges that fatigue manifests differently across various farming activities and seasons.

It aims to provide farmers with insights and tools to tweak their work patterns for better fatigue management. Importantly, it recognises that senior staff often face ongoing mental and physical demands, even after the physical labor ends.

Bernie Bierhoff, from Cotton Australia, highlighted the blurred lines of safety perception when fatigue sets in. He noted the importance of adequate rest and the challenge senior staff face in taking necessary breaks.

As part of the project, workshops will be held through networks in the agricultural sector, including regional industry bodies. Findings from these sessions will inform the design of a comprehensive survey to gather broader input from farm owners, managers, workers, contractors, and family members nationwide.

The research will culminate in the development of sector-specific risk profiles and a practical guide for farmers. This guide will help identify fatigue 'hot spots' and implement controls to reduce risks without impacting productivity.

Professor Ferguson is optimistic about the project's potential to improve health and safety in agriculture: "Ultimately, our goal is to support both the short-term wellbeing and long-term health of farmers, reducing on-farm injuries and even fatalities."

The project, administered by AgriFutures Australia and funded by the RSHA, includes partnerships with several major agricultural bodies. Local farmers' contributions will be crucial in shaping effective fatigue management strategies that benefit the entire agricultural community.

For farmers on the Fleurieu Peninsula and Kangaroo Island, this initiative represents an opportunity to enhance their own operations' safety and efficiency while contributing to a broader effort to safeguard agricultural workers nationwide.

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