Posted by: Kelley Dees | September 9, 2011

Safety and Health Suggestions: Working senior ranchers and farmers–Part 2

In the agriculture industry, the 65-and-over age group had the greatest number of fatalities involving machinery-related incidents. Most often, the machinery was a tractor or piece of agricultural production equipment. Each year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates tractor rollovers account for approximately 130 fatalities. It is important for senior farmers and ranchers to pay special attention to their ability to safely operate a tractor.

To reduce tractor operation risks, farmers and ranchers might:

  • Consider trading in older, less-safe tractors for newer, safer models.
  • Retro-fit older tractors, when possible, with roll bars (often called ROPS: rollover protection system) and a seat belt.
  • Ensure all shields are in place and tractor lights, brakes, tires, etc., are functional and well maintained.
  • Refrain from carrying passengers; consider limiting tractor operation to daylight hours and roads with little vehicular traffic.
  • The safest tractor for a senior is a newer tractor with an enclosed cab and ROPS.
  • Senior agriculturalists should be aware of over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and prescription medications that may reduce alertness, decrease the sense of balance, or interfere in some other way with expected work tasks.
  • Get adequate rest, eat nutritious foods, and wear proper work clothes and footwear.
  • Take work breaks. Get off the tractor and walk around. Always stop when tired.
  • Know the symptoms of heart attack and stroke (American Heart Association).
  • Don’t perform farm or ranch work that may be risky for you. Wyoming AgrAbility has information on identifying high-risk work tasks for senior farmers and ranchers.
  • Senior producers should obtain regular medical check-ups (at least once a year) for vision, hearing, balance, and muscular range and mobility.
  • Senior producers should consult with a family physician about how physical limitations may affect safety and health at work, and if any prescriptions can interfere with safe operation of machinery.

There are benefits that come with age. Older ranchers and farmers have the wisdom and experience that many younger workers lack. Use enhanced judgement and skill to compensate for decreases in reaction time and muscle strength that are inevitable.

This information is provided courtesy of the Wyoming AgrAbility Project. For more information, visit our website or call toll-free at 866-395-4986.

This information is adapted from the Wyoming AgrAbility 2008 Newspaper Insert. Source: National Ag Safety Database, Safety for Aging Farmers.

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