Farm Safety - Risk Management and Reaction Time

Mar 8


peter main

peter main

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Farming and agricultural businesses are very different. This is in part historical, and in part because many children and young adults live on the farm as well as work on it.


Any assessment of farm safety takes into account,Farm Safety - Risk Management and Reaction Time Articles or should take into account, the type of risks that may be inherent in the farm, its land or its general operations.

This risk assessment is normally quite objective in nature, and looks at things in quite a black and white way. This is good, but one of the things that it normally does not do is approach the issue of reaction time.

People react to emergencies or situations pretty much by instinct. The nature of an emergency or a demanding situation means that it normally happens unexpectedly, and with little time for the person to consciously think and react as to what they are going to do.

Because a reaction happens by instinct, people assume that it is just natural and will happen in its own time.  It is often assumed that people will react to something instinctively in pretty much the same way, and often in the same time frame. This is simply not true.

This issue of reaction time is crucially important to understanding and dealing with any type of hazard or emergency, and should be looked at as a separate factor in all types of risk management.

There are a number of factors that affect a person's reaction time, all of which may be relevant when assessing which worker or which person is most suited to doing a particular type of job.

Certain jobs may need a more thorough risk assessment, depending upon the type of emergency or hazard identified.

This is important, because not all emergencies or hazards are hugely affected by the time it takes to react to them. Some of them happen immediately, where reaction time would make relatively little difference, and there are other risks where reaction time can make a considerable difference.

The example often quoted is that of a tractor overturning or upending, where it is estimated that this can happen in three quarters of the second.

In this example, reaction time of itself will not be relevant, although some of the factors that can affect reaction time may be important to acknowledge as a contributing factor to the individuals capability to carry out the task safely and effectively.

Some of the factors in reaction time relate to the age and experience of the individual. Someone with significant experience that can only come with age, and has done a particular type of work for a long time may well  know the type of dangers or hazards involved, and be able to perform the task more safely than someone who does not have that experience.

Aside from age and experience, the other main factors tend to relate to things such as fitness, illness and general malaise of the individual. There is nothing particularly scientific about this, it is really just common sense.

Someone who is reasonably healthy, has decent amounts of sleep, and is generally well rounded as an individual is likely to make better decisions, and be more aware of potential hazards and risks than someone who is not.

The lifestyle of someone who lives or works on a farm or agricultural land often means long days and short nights. Sleep and general well-being are things that should be taken really seriously in all types of risk management systems.

The other major contributory factor concerns the use of drug and alcohol. Again this is not unique to farms or agricultural machinery, but it should be clear that any type of mood altering substance can have a significant effect on the ability to make instinctive judgements, which in certain types of situations or emergencies could be life-threatening.

This may also be the case with someone who is on any type of legitimate medication for an illness, but which may have side effects which could slow someone's reaction time, and this should also be taken into account when allocating work rotas and schedules.

Peter Main is a freelance writer who specializes in agriculture and related matters with all major manufacturers, such asfarm and construction machinery, tractors, utvs, lawn and garden tractors, and snowblowers. He also writes extensively about all areas of tractor finance, including credit scores, insurance and loan pay offs.