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Keeping Senior Farmers Safe

By Bonita Mechor
Canadian Centre for Health and Safety in Agriculture
September 30, 2011

Farmers are part of a unique population of senior workers where there isn’t a traditional and certainly not a mandatory retirement age. They continue to farm for a variety of reasons such as enjoyment, the farm is a family business and perhaps there is no one to take it over.

Although farmers over 60 represent only 13 per cent of the Canadian farming population, they account for over one third of traumatic fatalities according to the Canadian Agricultural Injury Surveillance Program (CAISP)


Older people can’t move as fast as they used to or react as quickly to changes in the environment. In addition, there are certain medications they may be taking that contribute to reaction times or balance. Certain health issues such as hearing or vision impairment may contribute to a potential injury.  Serious injury for a younger farmer can be fatal for an older one.

Practical suggestions:

  • Increase light in places where visibility is poor
  • Drink water frequently to keep your body hydrated, particularly in hot weather
  • Take regular rest breaks, as fatigue leads to injury
  • Get plenty of rest (sleep)
  • Eat regularly – it is easy to forget during very busy times
  • Be familiar with any medication you take and its effect on your reaction time including over the counter medication
  • Have your hearing tested and wear your hearing aid  
  • Have your vision tested and wear your glasses
  • Avoid driving equipment during dawn and dusk when vision is most affected
  • Try not to work alone
  • Use rollover protection and seatbelts in tractors
  • Use extreme caution when operating equipment and give your task your full attention
  • Install non-slip flooring and handrails
  • Install gates in animal handling facilities that are easy to use
  • Carry a walking stick
  • Know your limitations
  • If you do work alone, keep in touch by cell phone or radio and always let someone know where you are and how long you will be

For more agricultural safety resources, contact the Agricultural Health and Safety Network (306) 966-6647.