Thinking Ahead of the Tractor: Driver Safety and Situation Awareness

Amy Irwin* (Corresponding Author), Letizia Caruso, Ilinca-Ruxandra Tone

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Situation awareness has been identified as a key skill in maintaining safety in high-risk, dynamic industries. However, there is a lack of research evaluating situation awareness requirements and error types in agricultural operators. The aim of this study was to explore situation awareness among farmers in the United Kingdom (UK) when operating heavy agricultural machinery.

Method: The study used an online qualitative survey to collect data in three main areas: situation awareness requirements, factors impacting situation awareness, and the safety context for UK farmers. A total of 57 farmers completed the survey, responding to seven open-ended questions. Data were analyzed using directed content analysis.

Results: The results indicate the importance of situation awareness for safe and efficient work practice in farming. Situation awareness requirements span the machinery system, including awareness of internal cab systems and the status of implements attached to the external machine. Farmers needed to map and monitor the surrounding conditions in addition to considering personal requirements. Data also indicated the impact of a range of factors, including system-based elements such as blind spots, individual factors such as level of fatigue, and issues related to a lack of knowledge and failure to think ahead on the maintenance of situation awareness.

Conclusion: This research highlights the situation awareness requirements for operating agricultural machinery in complex and dynamic environments. By taking a human factors approach, utilizing design and practical interventions, it may be possible to both support and enhance farmer situation awareness and, therefore, reduce errors and adverse incidents.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)288-297
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Agromedicine
Issue number3
Early online date18 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2019


  • situation awareness
  • tractor
  • safety
  • cognitive
  • Situation awareness
  • injuries
  • workload


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