Be Mindful Of Your Movement To Prevent Injuries

Person holding their wrist

Written by Lisa Foust Prater. Originally Posted on February 16, 2022.

Farmwork often involves making the same actions over and over, which can lead to repetitive-motion injuries.

Whether milking cows, operating a tractor, harvesting crops by hand, carrying heavy loads, or doing a number of other chores, farmers and ranchers are at risk of developing injuries caused by repetitive motion.

The musculoskeletal system includes bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves, and any of these can be affected by repetitive motion, excessive force, or awkward posture.

Fatigue, long hours, and working in hot or cold conditions are contributing factors. Injuries occur with overuse and without adequate recovery.

According to a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) report, the most common repetitive motion injuries farmers experience are backaches and pain in the shoulders, arms, and hands. The report states, “Even a motion that is harmless in and of itself, like stretching out the arm to grasp an object, or squeezing a tool, may put the worker at risk if it is repeated over and over.”

It’s difficult to pinpoint how many farmers are dealing with these injuries, because many just work through the pain.

According to the Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center (UMASH), 75% of dairy workers report an injury like this every year.


Fortunately, these injuries are preventable by analyzing your tasks and those your employees do and implementing safeguards, allowing for rest, and assigning task variety to help reduce fatigue.

The NIOSH report says, “The best jobs allow workers to do different types of work, changing from sitting to standing to walking and back again.”

Using ergonomically designed tools and work spaces can prevent injuries caused by gripping, lifting, bending, twisting, kneeling, squatting, and using vibrating equipment.

Providing dollies or pallet trucks can help reduce lifting injuries.

When it comes to dairy workers, UMASH says it’s helpful to provide a platform for workers to stand on so they don’t have to reach overhead, and equip dip cups or sprays with an arm so workers don’t have to bend and reach to disinfect teats. Anti-fatigue, anti-slip flooring pads can be placed around the milking parlor or on any concrete floor.


One way to battle these injuries is by practicing yoga.

Cornell University Cooperative Extension has developed a program for farmers with yoga instructor Lana Heintjes.

“The goal of this practice is to gently soothe your muscles and lengthen the muscles that get tight from repetitive movement,” Heintjes says.

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