Researchers from University of Aberdeen have identified stress and fatigue as key causes of agricultural accidents.
The NTSAg group from the university investigated ‘situation awareness’, broadly defined as ‘knowing what is happening around you.’
Causes of agricultural accidents
They found that lapses in situation awareness, related to stress and fatigue, were a main contributory factor in farming accidents.
They claim their project is the first to look at the impact of stress and fatigue on situation awareness and safety in agriculture.
The team will present their findings as part of Farm Safety Week in a fatigue in farming webinar with the Farm Safety Foundation on Tuesday, July 20th.
In the School of Psychology-funded project, Ilinca-Ruxandra Tone interviewed 15 farmers from Ireland and the United Kingdom.
She asked interviewees to describe a farming accident when they were tired or stressed, followed by several questions about their general experience of stress and fatigue in farming.
The results showed that situation awareness lapses were present in all accidents and incidents reported and that many lapses occurred at the ‘perception’ level, such as a failure to notice something.
Other lapses in situation awareness were described at the ‘comprehension’ level in the form of an incorrect or incomplete understanding of the situation, such as misjudging the size of a vehicle.
Some of these incidents were attributed to a recent change in equipment or machinery or over-familiarity with existing equipment.
The sources of stress and fatigue in farming
Ilinca-Ruxandra Tone explains: “We wanted to find out what the sources of stress and fatigue in farming are and how these factors might influence farmer safety.”
“Moreover, we wanted to explore the link between stress and fatigue, situation awareness lapses and safety in farmers – something that no one has looked at until now.”
“We found consistently that farmers’ stress and fatigue can negatively affect their mental picture of what is going on, which leads to accidents and incidents.
“This is hugely significant given that stress and fatigue are prevalent issues in agriculture, alongside more serious mental health issues.”
“Our findings extend our knowledge to establish a link between stress and fatigue and situation awareness.”