Health and safety at work are important considerations for anyone working in the agricultural sector. Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, has estimated there may be as many as 20.5 million people engaged in agriculture (including seasonal and migrant workers) in Europe. On average there are up to 500 fatalities and 150 000 non-fatal accidents reported across the EU every year in the farming and forestry sector. We have previously highlighted that farming for 14 days is as risky as a skydive.
Farmers are getting better at recognising immediate dangers and assessing risk. However, there are many chronic or longer-term health risks that can remain unchecked. In this blog, we set out some of the ways you can protect your long-term health and some of the unique Valtra features for improving your workplace health and safety.
The main occupational risks for farmers
Immediate risks from working with machinery and livestock remain the main causes of fatality in the agricultural sector. According to statistical analysis by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, the top causes of accident-related deaths in agriculture include:
- Falls from height
- Being struck by moving or falling objects e.g. machinery, bales, etc
- Handling livestock
- Contact with machinery
In addition to these immediate and highly impactful risks, there are also hidden longer-term risks and dangers that often go unchecked. Over 60% of agricultural workers surveyed by Eurostat reported some form of limiting chronic illness and heart disease. Some of the top causes of chronic illness included:
- Musculoskeletal disorders e.g. joint and back pain, sprains etc
- Skin cancer
- Stress and psychological issues
Transportation risks in agriculture
Two of the main risks associated with transportation in agriculture are being run over, and overturning in a vehicle. When moving around the yard or crossing junctions on the road, views can be limited due to front-mounted implements. Valtra's 5th generation tractors have a steeply sloping bonnet design that gives the driver a good view of the space in front of them.
In a recent independent study commissioned by Valtra, the new Q Series was found to provide a 20% closer view of the ground in front of the driver compared to a competitor’s tractor of the same horsepower class. The same study also compared the area of glass in the cabs of the two tractors as well as their windscreen wiper systems. The Valtra was found to have a considerably greater amount of window space, with a wider wiper angle (270 degrees to the front and 180 degrees to the side) and consequently a larger area kept clear by the wiper blade. As well as facilitating more confident and precise working, this also increases the visibility of potential hazards.
Technology solutions are increasingly used to help farmers stay safe at work. Many farmers are finding that tractor-mounted cameras help them monitor their work and potential hazards. One such technical solution is Unlimited VIEW. The system uses front and rear-mounted cameras to improve the angle of view for the driver, and uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to automatically detect objects passing in front of the tractor and alerts the driver.
Watch this video to see the benefits of Valtra Unlimited VIEW
Minimising aches and pains for farmers and tractor drivers
Many long-term health issues for farmers and tractor drivers arise from poor ergonomics in the cab. Constant twisting and turning to see the implement and work can lead to musculoskeletal disorders. Valtra tractors offer users many ways to improve their posture and working conditions. For example, TwinTrac enables the driver to easily turn the driver's seat 180 degrees. This affords the operator excellent visibility of rear-mounted implements and removes the need for constant twisting. Valtra has always placed a heavy emphasis on driver comfort and health and safety. In fact, Valtra was the first tractor brand to offer such a reverse driving solution direct from the factory in 1986. You can read more about this in our TwinTrac history blog. Another unique Valtra feature is the Skyview cab. The large polycarbonate window with a wiper gives an unparalleled view of cranes and side-mounted implements. This helps the driver maintain a good posture without straining their neck to see the implement their working with. The cab is fully FOPS-proof for enhanced safety.
Here Product Specialist, Timo Mattila's overview of TwinTrac's development
These days, modern technology can also be used to increase visibility and minimise awkward twists and turns in the cab. As well as Unlimited VIEW, mentioned above, and the rearview camera available from the factory, Valtra Unlimited can also mount cameras to your Valtra tractor, anywhere you like. Camera views can be displayed on the SmartTouch terminal's 9-inch touchscreen display. The SmartTouch Extend second terminal also allows tractor drivers to display a camera view while working, in addition to displaying any ISOBUS applications.
Long days in a poorly designed tractor cab can contribute to musculoskeletal disorders such as back pain. Having the right support and suspension can make a great difference to the comfort of a driver. Valtra has been using AIRES pneumatic front axel suspension for over 20 years. Pneumatic suspension is not affected by changes in temperature so the driver is guaranteed a smooth ride in all weathers.
Fatigue and mental stress
Farming is hard work and can be stressful. The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work notes that some of the top stressors facing farmers include uncertainty around climate change, financial worries, increasing regulations and administration, and rural crime. All of these stressors can distract from already demanding and difficult work. Luckily, many technologies can help. Valtra's smart farming technology is well-known for being easy to use and can take much of the stress out of fieldwork.
By using Valtra Guide autoguidance system you can reduce the stress of maintaining a straight line while working, and guarantee consistent results. The system steers the tractor for you, so you can concentrate on the implement and work at hand. Overlaps that might result in lower yields and higher expenses are also automatically eliminated.
Auto U-Pilot and SmartTurn
Auto U-Pilot and SmartTurn use Valtra Guide to fully automate the field driving experience. Your Valtra tractor will automatically perform a headland sequence and turn when it meets the headland. This reduces the stress of the driver having to judge when the implement is crossing the headland and perform the necessary headland sequence.
Section Control with Multiboom and Variable Rate Control
These smart farming technologies take the guesswork out of product application and seeding works. Using prescription maps, Variable Rate Control will automatically apply the right amount of product to the right area of the field. This significantly reduces the stress of the operator as there is no need to constantly adjust flow rates. Section Control with Multiboom will automatically switch off individual sections of the sprayer boom or seed drill as they cross the headland. This reduces the worry about missed areas or overlaps leading to lower yields.
Farming is changing at a fast pace. New regulations and legislation often require more reporting on farm operations. This can be a significant source of stress for some farmers. TaskDoc Pro by Valtra reduces the manual work of data gathering and sorting. Setting up tasks and transferring them to the tractor is simplified. At the end of the task, all the data collected by the tractor can be transferred to your FMIS system and documentation automatically generated. The time savings that this brings can then either be spent in the field or resting and recharging.
Health and Safety for Farmers
Farmers and tractor drivers face many difficulties that can impact their health. From immediate threats such as being hit by moving machinery, to longer-term issues arising from poor working conditions, Valtra offers a wide range of solutions that can improve working conditions for farmers. AGCO Parts and Service also has many helpful resources for improving health and safety on the farm. Check out the useful guides from the link below.