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We all know a farmer, be it yourself, a friend or a family member, suffering from an injury. In a 2012 survey of 600 Irish farmers, 56% admitted they had experienced a musculoskeletal injury; the most common being a back injury (37%).

There is often a common misconception that these injuries are just a hazard of the occupation and are somewhat unavoidable after countless years of farming. It is true that farmers are at a higher risk of injury due to the nature of their occupation, however these injuries are most definitely preventable – the first step in preventing such injuries is understanding the potential risk factors.

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RISK FACTORS:

  • Excessive force/ load of weight
      • E.g carrying calves, 50kg fertiliser bags, attaching a trailer/ machinery equipment.
  • Awkward postures while lifting
      • Often due to a lack of space, carrying live animals, holding a load away from your body
  • Repetitive bending/twisting postures
      • E.g bending down to put clusters on, using a sprong
  • Lack of recovery time
  • Excessive carrying distance
  • Lifting above shoulder height
  • Obstacles in the environment
      • An unorganised farmyard can lead to slips, trips and falls
  • Prolonged periods driving machinery

PREVENTION TIPS:

  • Split heavy loads into smaller, more manageable loads
  • Always use the correct lifting technique:
      • Keep a wide base of support, feet should be shoulder-width apart.
      • Squat down, bending at the hips and knees only.
      • Look straight ahead, keep your back straight, your chest out & shoulders back.
      • Slowly lift by straightening your hips and knees.
      • Hold the load as close to your body as possible.
      • Use your feet to change direction, taking small steps. Do not twist your body.
      • Set down your load carefully by squatting.
  • Plan & clear your route before lifting
  • Use available resources
      • E.g Trolley, wheelbarrow, pallet forks/tractor grab where possible.
      • Calving Jack
      • Car Jack/Jockey Wheel to lift trailer hinges
      • If possible, invest in:
        • A head lock for your crush
        • A calf trolley/crush for transportation & handling calves
        • Non-slip footwear
  • Avoid prolonged periods of bending
      • When building milking parlours, consider a raised milking platform in the dairy pit for applying clusters
      • Take time to move an object onto a work bench rather than fixing it on the ground
  • When driving:
      • Adjust your back rest so that it makes contact from your bottom to your shoulders (100-110 degrees). If the seat it not adjustable, use a pillow.
      • Position mirrors so that you can easily look around without straining
  • When dismounting, ensure that you use the available safety rails & that steps are clean.                                        
    • Plan and pace your activities
      • Allow time for breaks & plan to alternate tasks, preventing repetitive strain.
  • If in doubt, don’t do it
    • If you have any suspicions that a load may be too heavy for you to lift, wait until there is help available or use a machine.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help; be it family, friends or Farm Relief.

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To find out how Compass Physio can help, call 0419847545 (this number covers all clinics), click here to book online or download our free information booklet. You can also email any questions to info@compassphysio.ie

Eimhear Shorthall  MISCP
Student Physiotherapist
Compass Physio

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