Tractor Ergonomics

The 2024 planting season has begun, and for many, it’s the most exciting time of the year. We have been busy planning crop rotations, fertilizing, preparing the soil, and now it’s time to put seeds in the ground. Long hours in the tractor can be therapeutic for many, but we don’t often consider the toll it can take on the body. Applying proper ergonomics to the way that you work in the tractor can help you stay alert throughout the day and minimize the physical effects that you may be exposing yourself to.

This time of year, the tractor becomes a second home. So, make yourself at home with ergonomics! Ergonomics is the study of people in their working environment. Ergonomic practices fit the job to the worker, not the worker to the job. When you’re beginning a full day of work in the tractor, ask yourself if any actions are even minorly uncomfortable. What seems only slightly uncomfortable at the start of the day can cause wear on the body after repeating the action all day. Do you have to over or under-extend your leg to push the clutch or brake pedal? Is your steering wheel at a height that is comfortable for you? Are the hydraulic controls easy to reach? Fitting your work to you is much easier on the body than trying to fit yourself to the work.

Don’t forget to take frequent stretch breaks throughout the day. Not only does stretching provide a wide range of health benefits, but it can also prevent injuries. For example, sitting in a vibrating tractor for extended periods of time can lead to a hazard known as Whole Body Vibration. Whole Body Vibration happens when our bodies absorb the vibrational effects of operating a tractor through the seat during extended work periods. If unchecked, it can lead to headaches, loss of balance, stomach upset, and fatigue. One of the best ways to prevent injuries from Whole Body Vibration is by stretching, so be sure to give yourself time to get out and stretch when you need it. It’s also a great way to take a quick break, look back on the work that you’ve completed, breathe deep and enjoy the scenery.

Spending the day in the tractor is one of the perks of the job in farming, but don’t forget to take care of yourself. Adjust your tractor cab to fit you, not the other way around. Get out and stretch as often as you can. And as they say before any long journey: buckle up, get comfortable, and enjoy the ride.