Older farmers and machinery exposure—cause for concern?

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BackgroundThe average age of farmers in North America is increasing each year. We had the unique opportunity to examine work patterns and how they change across the lifespan in a large cohort of farm operations.MethodsSaskatchewan farms were surveyed via questionnaire during the winter of 2007 to examine the determinants of injury. A sub-sample of 2,751 male farmers aged 25 and older was used in this project. The primary dependent variable was the proportion of work time devoted to specific farm tasks which was related to advancing age.ResultsThe weekly hours of work declined approximately 34% as farmers aged over the lifespan. Older farmers disproportionately retained tasks involving tractors and combines as they aged, so that the proportion of time spent operating machinery such as tractors and combines increased by about 40% in the older age groups.ConclusionExposure to potentially dangerous farm equipment does not decrease as much as would be expected based on an equal linear reduction in all work tasks as overall work quantity decreases with age. Older farmers remain relatively active in the workplace, and, therefore, prevention efforts should focus on safe machinery operation. Am. J. Ind. Med. 55:1044–1050, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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