The importance of a well-maintained machine: now apply this to you!

By Dee Jepsen

Regular equipment maintenance is an important part of good work practices. Without proper equipment, our work performance suffers. Equipment maintenance includes many activities, including inspections, replacements and adjustments. Learning how to apply these principles to our own lifestyle is also important for sustainability and improves our quality of life. For without a well-prepared body, we are not ready to face the workday.

This article addresses the health side of agricultural safety and health. A healthy workforce is an important aspect towards total workplace safety.


Two types of maintenance

The two types of equipment maintenance are routine maintenance and corrective maintenance. During routine maintenance activities we focus on preventing future problems. Several of these good practices include getting adequate sleep, eating a balanced diet, participating in the right type of exercise, and knowing a few stress control strategies.

Corrective maintenance is reacting to a faulty system, where things go wrong within the system or where parts need replaced. Equipment breakdowns never happen at the best time, and always come with a price. While we know that everything will eventually reach its life expectancy, we also know that sustained care over the life span helps extend the use of that machine.

Our bodies don’t come with owner’s manuals, but there are best practices for us to follow to ensure we are in the best shape, whatever our age and ability level. Follow doctors (and dentists) orders to establish a good routine for your health. And as time passes, stay in shape and adapt to the seasons of your life with proper care and maintenance.


The right type of fuel

Just like there is a difference between gas and diesel engines, so too is it important to know how food affects our performance. Having a balanced diet, or supplementing your diet when vitamins and minerals are lacking, are the two best ways to ensure you are fueling your body for your lifestyle. Balancing the calorie intake and eating a variety of foods are important for every diet. It is important to limit foods high in sugar, fat, and sodium, these include snacks, desserts, fried or salty foods. Don’t forget the value of fiber; this nutrient can help lower cholesterol and the absorption of sugar as well as prevent cardiovascular diseases and manage diabetes.

What we drink is also important. Drinking water and other low calorie beverages allow for better absorption of nutrients and replenish our bodily systems. Drinking one glass of water every 20 to 30 minutes while working is the best way to replace lost body fluids, especially in the summer heat and humidity. Alcoholic and sugary beverages increase heat effects, and are not recommended in the workplace.


Pre-check operations

Approximately 25% of workplace injuries result from lifting, pulling, or pushing objects. Back injuries are the most common result of poor work performance. Starting your day with good stretching and knowing how to properly lift objects is similar to performing a pre-operation on your equipment. Have a plan for high intensity lifting. Push rather than pull the load; avoid twisting when lifting or setting down a load. Ask for help moving heavy objects or resort to mechanical means whenever possible.

Being mindful of your physical abilities to do the job is also important. A regular workout with aerobic activities is good for cardio vascular systems. These workouts also help stimulate brain activity. You can think clearer when you are in shape and have flexibility.

Know your limits

Just like you would know your vehicle limits, over-extending ourselves physically and mentally is also damaging to our bodies. Pushing towards deadlines is okay for short periods, but we cannot sustain at this pace the entire season. Understanding your body’s cues and what it tells you is an important part of knowing your personal limits.

Getting adequate sleep is part of replenishing your strength. Sleep is important for all bodily systems, everything from muscles, to digestion, to building immunity. Without sleep time, it is difficult to be fully ready to take on the next task.


Regular inspections

Visiting your primary care physician and dentist is part of having a regular routine inspection. There is no replacement for good medical care.


Down time

The term “down time” is often referred to as those times our equipment is broken down or systems have been paused either voluntarily or unexpectedly. However in terms of our body’s well-being, down time is a necessary time. It is important for good physical and mental health to just relax and chill every now and then. During this time our systems can be re-charged and refreshed.

These tips are based on a healthy approach to maintaining an active rural lifestyle. Knowing how to maintain our bodies is as important as equipment safety.

For more information on coping with stress, see the OSU Factsheet HYG-5242 at


Dee Jepsen, Associate Professor, can be reached at 292-6008 or This column is provided by the OSU Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, OSU Extension, Ohio Agricultural Research & Development Center, and the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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