Harvest Is Exhausting, Know How to Stay Safe Behind the Wheel

Corn silage harvest ( Catherine Merlo )

As the air begins to chill and the fields change from their summery shade of green to that “almost ready” shade of brown, farmers are anxious to move their harvest equipment from the shop to the fields. Though the thrill of starting a new harvest season is exciting at first, it doesn’t take long for they early mornings and late nights spent bringing in the crop to become stressful and even dangerous.

According to the Center of Disease Control, an estimated 1 in 25 adult drivers (ages 18 years or older) report to have fallen asleep while driving in the previous 30 days. Additionally, individuals who snored or usually slept six or fewer hours per day were more likely to report falling asleep while driving.

In a separate study conducted by the University of California-Davis, working at night has been shown to affect health, including interruption of hormone release cycles, low immune response and cardiovascular disease. The disruption of family life and social activities can also lead to poor diet, stress, and lack of exercise. 

In order to hep stay alert while operating equipment, it is important to know the warning signs of exhaustion and how to help prevent tiredness while driving. 

Warning Signs

  • Yawning or blinking frequently.
  • Difficulty remembering the past few minutes while driving.
  • Drifting from row to row. 
  • Struggling to concentrate on even the simplest task.

Methods of Prevention

  • Take Breaks – One of the easiest ways to help combat exhaustion is take short frequent breaks. It is suggested that you take at least one 15-minute break for every two hours of driving, according to Driving Ergonomics.
  • Slow Down – It only takes a few minutes to run safety checks on your equipment. A few minutes that could save your life.
  • Eat a Healthy, Decent Meal – Loading up on junk food during harvest might fill your belly, but it won’t help keep you awake. Eating a well-balanced, healthy meal is much more effective when fighting tiredness. Pack a cooler full of healthy, protein packed snacks to help prevent hunger and keep you going! Bonus points if you eat a hot meal at the end of the day!
  • Get Plenty of Sleep – This may be surprising, but the best way to combat sleepiness is to…SLEEP! Getting enough rest is the best way to ensure that you are on you’re A-game out in the field. Know your limits and don’t hesitate to turn in for the night when your eyes get too heavy.
  • Relax! – It’s easier said than done, but don’t be afraid to give yourself permission to hit the pause button once in a while and keep your mental health in check. Spend some time with your family, catch up with a friend, or listen to some music or even a podcast (We’ve got some great ones!) Whatever it may be, take a sometime for yourself every now and then. Remember, you matter!

For more on harvest safety, read: