Fatigue on the farm

Fatigue isn't the same as being sleepy or drowsy. It’s about pushing our bodies beyond their mental and physical limits day after day, with no time to recover.

Date last updated

Wednesday 22 Jul 2020

Industries and topics
  • Agriculture
  • Fatigue

Have you experienced fatigue on the farm?

You may be fatigued if you regularly experience some (or several) of the following:

Image of human head containing a brain as a temperature gauge, with smaller thoughts in bubbles around the head. A bubble for each statement: headaches and dizziness, low or no energy or motivation, poor short-term memory or concentration, near-misses/making mistakes, slower to react to things, reduced coordination, nodding off or micro-sleeps, frequent colds, irritability.

Our bodies can be tested and become fatigued during harvest times, or when intense work is necessary.

You may experience fatigue if:

  • you had less than 6 hours sleep in the past 24 hours
    • you had less than 12 hours sleep in the past 48 hours
      • you will have been awake for 16 hours or more after a shift
        • you've been exposed to extreme hot or cold temperatures
          • you've had to concentrate for a long period

            Tips to avoid fatigue

            While working, consider:

            8 icons depicting simple stretches, rotating tasks, increasing water intake, taking breaks where possible, eating healthy snacks, checking in with family, friends and co-workers, making a reasonable roster outlining start and finish times for yourself and others, and stick to it, planning ahead to roster extra help for high demand periods.

            The leading cause of fatigue is lack of sleep

            Proper sleep allows the brain and body to repair, so we can get up and go again the next day.

            Consider:

            • prioritising sleep
              • eating well and limiting caffeine and alcohol
                • exercising regularly
                  • seeking medical advice when fatigue and/or disordered sleep (eg insomnia) continue
                    • seeking advice for depression, anxiety, grief, stress, addiction or other issues that interfere with your overall wellbeing and ability to work

                      Fatigue impairs reaction times, concentration, and the ability to think clearly and control our moods

                      For example, working for 17 continuous hours causes impairment equivalent to a 0.05 blood alcohol concentration.

                      If you or someone at work is fatigued:

                      • avoid driving home after the shift - make other arrangements to get home instead (eg get picked up by family or friends)
                        • avoid working alone or speak to your friends, neighbours, co-workers or family about regularly checking in