Managing fatigue on-farm during the cotton harvest
With picking season upon us, specialist agricultural insurer Achmea Australia encourages cotton growers to be mindful of the risk and impact of fatigue on-farm.
Achmea Australia Farm Insurance Specialist Mark Vayro says especially at this busy time of year, growers are encouraged to remain vigilant when it comes to safety and risk awareness to help protect their most valuable asset on-farm – people.
“During picking season in particular, growers and farm workers can work extremely long hours, with fatigue affecting both experienced and inexperienced drivers and equipment operators,” said Mark.
“Physical exhaustion and mental fatigue can become dangerous and may cause employees to underestimate the risk involved with their tasks. Beyond the immediate consequences of an accident, such as personal injury and damage to equipment, a grower could experience significant delays to harvest and increased operational costs if they are subsequently required to contract in additional equipment or workers,” he said.
“Delays could also impact the quality of the harvest, and pressure may be felt by other employees if they need to put in longer hours to compensate for the additional workload,” Mark said.
Reviewing hazards and implementing control measures can help reduce the risk of accidents caused by fatigue, including the following:
- Build a culture of support, where safety and fatigue can be openly discussed, and support is facilitated.
- Brief workers on fatigue management during their safety induction, and when necessary, including recognising and reporting the signs of fatigue in themselves and others.
- When structuring rosters, limit extended shifts, avoid repetitive tasks over extended periods of time, and plan for adequate breaks and rest between shifts.
- Monitor the effectiveness of control measures and conditions on-farm, keeping an eye out for workers who might be fatigued and take appropriate steps.
Growers are encouraged to refer to Cotton Australia’s best practices program, myBMP, which has a dedicated WHS module. Achmea Australia recognises sustainable risk mitigation practices, offering an insurance reward for cotton farmers who are fully certified in the myBMP program.