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Farmers need to stretch

Taking a few moments away from farming to stretch can go a long ways toward avoiding the chronic pain that often accompanies a career in agriculture, says Roland Reenders, a Workplace Safety and Health division ergonomist with a farming background.

Speaking at the Farm Safety and Health seminar held in Winnipeg on Nov. 6 and 7, he urged all farmers to take breaks, stretch, and learn to lift things properly.

By its very nature, farming can be one of the hardest jobs to avoid musculoskeletal injuries. Reenders said 85 per cent of the population will experience back pain, while the audience thought it would be likely closer to 99 per cent.

“Once you are injured, you are more likely to do it again,” said Reenders.

He focused on the injuries that happen over time causing chronic pain.

Our bodies like to be in neutral positions, but most work has us out of alignment. While it can’t be helped, he suggested taking breaks.

He urged producers to get out of the combine even when they feel pressed to get the job done. A few minutes of stretching can keep the pain away.

Farming poses a true challenge because many of the jobs only happen once a year but for prolonged periods.

“You haven’t had a chance to build up to them,” he said.

Whether standing for long periods of time or sitting, the activity should be interrupted with a break of some kind.

Designing a proper work station can go a long way as well. For jobs that involve standing in one place for a long time, Reenders recommended an anti-fatigue mat on the floor.

And Reenders practised what he preached to the audience as he made them stand up and stretch during his presentation. He also gave a lesson in lifting.

He showed a baby crouching to pick up a toy, pointing out that this is the proper method.

“We learn to cheat,” he said as most people have a tendency to bend over to pick up an object.

Weldon Newton, a KAP board member, said farmers try to do things safely but sometimes get pushed for time. Plenty of farmers wouldn’t dream of stopping the combine and getting out to stretch, but he acknowledged these are habits worthwhile developing.

“It doesn’t come easy,” he said.

While Newton felt it would be a difficult thing for farmers to learn to do, it is important for them to keep hearing the message.

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