September 29, 2014 7:37 pm
Updated: September 30, 2014 8:45 am

Harvest season highest risk for farm injury


Watch above: Harvest in full swing on the Prairies;  farmers urged to proceed with caution

SASKATOON – This time of the year can pose the highest risk of injury for farmers with fatigue, stress and pressure building as they spend as much time as they can in the fields. As every day passes the stress to get the crop off is building, that combined with fatigue can lead to injury.

Last week in Saskatchewan a man was killed and another seriously injured in farm related accidents.

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“It can happen so quickly,” said Steven Derksen, a wheat and canola farmer.

Steven Derksen has been farming northeast of Langham for almost 34 years. Every harvest is different; this year he and his son are about a week behind.

“We want to be in a hurry but think about what we’re doing and try to remind each other to stay safe and if my son sees I’m doing something stupid then he’ll tell me or vice versa,” said Derksen.

The Derksen’s are about half way done 3,000 acres; they like to be out there before the sun comes up and out there hours past sundown but understand the risks.

“I attended one farm accident where the fellow died and it was a good friend and a neighbour so that hits you pretty hard, so that stayed with me for years and years, you don’t forget that right away,” said Derksen.

Between 1990 and 2011, there were close to 340 farm related deaths in Saskatchewan and roughly 4,600 people hospitalized because of farm related injuries between 1990 and 2007.

Staying safe during harvest is challenging. Niels Koehncke, the acting director for the Canadian Centre for Health and Safety at the University of Saskatchewan, says most farm injuries occur at this time of the year. Contact with machinery presents the biggest risk for both injuries and fatalities but there are ways to avoid them and stay sharp.

“Even things like eating a balanced meal, making sure you’re well hydrated, getting a good nights sleep, making sure you’re rested as you can be and if you’re really tired there’s no reason you can’t shutdown for a few minutes and take a nap, even a 20 minute break with a short nap can really help improve alertness,” said Koehncke.

As Derksen races against mother nature to get the remainder of his crop off, he isn’t going to risk his life over it.

There were 1,975 agricultural fatalities in Canada between 1990 and 2008, with about 70 per cent related to machinery.

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