Farm injury risks increase with age

November 13, 2012

Older North American farmers work fewer hours than their younger peers but spend more time operating heavy machinery and equipment--raising their risk of serious injury, according to new research from the University of Alberta.

A survey of 2,751 Saskatchewan farmers showed that as farmers age they turn to less physically strenuous work such as operating machinery. Farmers aged 45 to 64 years spent six to eight more days a year operating tractors and combines than farmers 20 years their junior--a situation that puts older farmers at risk, say the study authors.

"It's important for farmers, especially those from farm families where the older 60-plus crowd is still working, to understand that operating machinery is still a high-risk activity," said lead author Don Voaklander, a professor in the School of Public Health and director of the Alberta Centre for Injury Control and Research.

The study, published in the November issue of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, found that farmers aged 45 to 54 spent a median of 67 days a year operating tractors and combines--the most among any age group--followed by farmers aged 55 to 64, who spent 65 days operating machinery.

In comparison, farmers aged 25 to 34 spent just 61 days on machinery.

Farming a greying industry

The farming industry is greying faster than any other occupation in North America, with an average age of 55 years--and that's only going to rise, Voaklander says.

The study included input from 519 seniors, with farmers between 65 to 74 years old working a median of 46 hours a week on the farm--just one hour less than farmers 40 years their junior. Farmers aged 75 and older worked 34 hours.

Floyd Anderson has had his share of close calls on a farming and ranching career that spans six decades. Now 73, he continues to put in 12-hour days, partly because he loves the work and partly to help his family.

"I've had too many close scrapes, actually," says Anderson, who runs a 300-head purebred cattle operation near Cardston, Alta. One of those close calls was getting his arm caught in the main drive of a combine.

"That dang near took my arm off," he says of the incident, which could have been far worse than a cut arm had the heat of the machine not cauterized the wound. "The smoking belt cauterized the artery that was cut and I made it to town."

Voaklander notes most farm fatalities are caused by working on tractors and mowing machines or working with animals, and that older farmers in particular are at high risk.

"They tend to work alone, they tend to work on older equipment and they often gravitate toward machinery jobs because it's easier to handle."

Voaklander says newer machinery has better platforms, deadman switches and safety guards that reduce injury risk. He recommends staying in contact with family as much as possible, and says family members should also heed warning signs of declining sensory capabilities such as dented or scraped machinery, or damaged fence posts.
-end-
The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Canadian Centre for Health and Safety In Agriculture.

University of Alberta

Related Public Health Articles from Brightsurf:

COVID-19 and the decolonization of Indigenous public health
Indigenous self-determination, leadership and knowledge have helped protect Indigenous communities in Canada during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, and these principles should be incorporated into public health in future, argue the authors of a commentary in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) http://www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.200852.

Public health consequences of policing homelessness
In a new study examining homelessness, researchers find that policy such a lifestyle has massive public health implications, making sleeping on the street even MORE unhealthy.

Electronic health information exchange improves public health disease reporting
Disease tracking is an important area of focus for health departments in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pandemic likely to cause long-term health problems, Yale School of Public Health finds
The coronavirus pandemic's life-altering effects are likely to result in lasting physical and mental health consequences for many people--particularly those from vulnerable populations--a new study led by the Yale School of Public Health finds.

The Lancet Public Health: US modelling study estimates impact of school closures for COVID-19 on US health-care workforce and associated mortality
US policymakers considering physical distancing measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 face a difficult trade-off between closing schools to reduce transmission and new cases, and potential health-care worker absenteeism due to additional childcare needs that could ultimately increase mortality from COVID-19, according to new modelling research published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Access to identification documents reflecting gender identity may improve trans mental health
Results from a survey of over 20,000 American trans adults suggest that having access to identification documents which reflect their identified gender helps to improve their mental health and may reduce suicidal thoughts, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Study estimates mental health impact of welfare reform, Universal Credit, in Great Britain
The 2013 Universal Credit welfare reform appears to have led to an increase in the prevalence of psychological distress among unemployed recipients, according to a nationally representative study following more than 52,000 working-age individuals from England, Wales, and Scotland over nine years between 2009-2018, published as part of an issue of The Lancet Public Health journal on income and health.

BU researchers: Pornography is not a 'public health crisis'
Researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) have written an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health special February issue arguing against the claim that pornography is a public health crisis, and explaining why such a claim actually endangers the health of the public.

The Lancet Public Health: Ageism linked to poorer health in older people in England
Ageism may be linked with poorer health in older people in England, according to an observational study of over 7,500 people aged over 50 published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

Study: Public transportation use linked to better public health
Promoting robust public transportation systems may come with a bonus for public health -- lower obesity rates.

Read More: Public Health News and Public Health Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.