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Compensate For Those Senior Senses

On the farm, it’s relatively easy to make sure young people aren’t in a job that’s over their heads. It’s much harder to curb eager helpers over 60! But it’s just as necessary.

The most up-to-date Canadian Agricultural Injury Surveillance (CAISP) data on farm deaths in Canada shows that in the 16 years from 1990 to 2005, 642 farmers aged 60 or over were killed in agricultural injury events. Three quarters of the deaths were related to working with machinery, mostly tractors, in rollover and runover incidents.

The CAISP data has more bad news. The trend line for older adults involved in agricultural fatalities was steady over those 16 years. And 95 per cent were male.

Most of these injuries are preventable. For instance, senior farmers may sometimes use older tractors and worn-out equipment that are more prone to malfunctioning. Older tractors often have no seatbelts or ROPS, so rollovers are frequently fatal. Maintaining tractors and machinery properly and retrofitting seatbelts and ROPS on older tractors would help reduce the incidence of injuries.

Remember that by age 60, the amount of light required to see clearly is double that needed by 45 year olds. So try to use senior skills before dusk and outside rather than in a dimly-lit shed. Or increase lighting levels in barns and other buildings to accommodate the vision needs of older farmers.

If Gramps must work alone, make sure he tells you his whereabouts and his schedule — and make sure he takes a cell phone or a two-way communications device that includes a geographic positioning system (GPS).

There’s more. How’s his hearing? Senior farmers who have difficulty hearing words or sounds may not be able to detect warning signals, such as an automobile horn or the approach of a fast-moving animal. Agree to add hand signals when Gramps is at work.

Senior farmers have much to contribute. They have the wisdom and experience that many younger workers lack. And, with your help, they can use that enhanced judgment and skill to compensate for the decreases in reaction time and muscle strength that are inevitable.

Thanks to the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association for providing this farm safety tip. Look for another tip in your next Grainews. For the complete report Agricultural Fatalities in Canada 1990-2005, go to



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