Older Farmers at Higher Risk of Falls

Older Farmers at Higher Risk of Falls
Jun 20, 2022

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Preventing Debilitating Slip, Trip and Fall Related Injuries

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The average age of farm operators and workers is rising, and many of us are staying on the job long after people in other industry sectors have retired.

While staying active may keep us mentally healthy, with each passing year we’re at greater risk of debilitating physical injuries, especially from falls. Same level falls are a leading cause of lost-time injury for workers 55 and up, causing hardship for injured workers, their families, and the operations

Picture This Scenario
It’s still dark as you make your way across the yard. Rain fell overnight, and your boots squelch. You step over a water-filled rut. One heel threatens to slide out from under you, but you catch yourself.

You reach the tractor shed, flick on the overhead light, pick up what you came for, and head over to the barn as your eyes readjust to darkness. You reach the barn, slide open the door, reach for the light switch, and down you go, tripping over a pail you had set down yesterday evening to answer your cellphone.

You’ve done this a thousand times, in all kinds of weather. Why fall today? “Any number of factors could have contributed,” says Kristin Hoffman, a consultant with Workplace Safety & Prevention Services. “But we can prevent falls by taking special precautions. Many involve little or no cost.”

Hoffman offers a number of suggestions, starting with an appreciation for what it means to be an older farmer.

How Age Changes Us
As we age, we’re less able to

  • perceive slipperiness
  • visually detect hazards
  • adapt to the dark
  • tolerate glare
  • differentiate between colours
  • react quickly
  • control our balance

“Recognizing how we’re changing is the first step in reducing the risk of slips, trips and falls,” says Hoffman. “The second step is to walk through your operation as if you’re seeing it for the first time. Prioritize the hazards you identify, and then take action.”

8 Ways to Reduce the Risk

  1. Don’t store things on the ground. Find a permanent spot where they won’t trip or catch you.
  2. Train everyone on spill cleanup (oil, fuel, chemicals, effluent, mud, manure), and keep cleanup kits handy.
  3. Use slip resistant mats and non-skid strips on wet floors.
  4. Improve lighting so workers can easily see what they’re doing and what’s around them.
  5. Learn to love yellow. Even people with low vision can see safety yellow. Use it to indicate curbs, steps, stairways, and other changes in height.
  6. Ensure stairs and ramps have handrails.
  7. Keep paths and walkways clear. Remove ice and snow promptly, apply sand or other anti slip material as needed, fill in potholes and ruts.
  8. Make sure everyone wears slip resistant footwear.

Visit the WSPS Agriculture & Horticulture Safety Centre to view our extensive free resources for farm safety. And listen in on our quarterly Cultivating Safety: Protecting Your Farm’s Greatest Asset Podcast – a specialty episode of Between the Rows podcast.

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Comments (1)

Re:older farmers falling Ensure that mats have sloped edged. After breaking my leg, I learned to be conscious of my feet. When walking on uneven surfaces, actually feeling the bottom of my feet has been helpful in adjusting my balance and weight.
Sandra |Jun 21 2022 8:04AM

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