Friday, December 15, 2017

A healthy attitude to paperwork

March 19, 2013 by  
Filed under Clodhopper

A well-intentioned farm questionnaire ends up thrown in the bin by Clodhopper.

Are you healthy? I assumed I was with the exception of old age and the associated breakdown of bodily functions that goes with it.

Trying to keep calm and let life drift over your head is a must at my age. But agricultural red tape can have a life-shortening effect. I value my health and dump any unnecessary paperwork or non-compulsory form filling in the bin.

Even so, my eye was taken by a NROSO questionnaire accompanying plans for a new study on the health of pesticide use. It aims to monitor the health of men and women who work with pesticides and determine whether there is a link between health and pesticide use.

A 12-page questionnaire sits on my office desk ready to be filled in. Or not as the case may be. It is a vast booklet to be filled in not only now but for years after too. It includes questions regarding my lifestyle, diet, smoking habits, alcohol intake and social circumstances.

With my permission, the researchers will contact the NHS and ask to be notified of any important health events such as cancer, hospital admissions and finally death. Of course, all information will be confidential. An online option is also available.

I have enough paperwork without the burden of any more but in fairness I did start to fill in the questionnaire. I soon became irritated. There were questions about herbicides, fungicides, growth regulators, clothing, useage, dates and times – all questions that needed further research.

When faced with questions like this that need accurate answers, how many of us can honestly say they answer correctly? When there is no financial penalty for getting the answer wrong (unlike the single farm payment), it is all too tempting to just tick the first box that comes into view.

How many forms have we all filled in regarding harvest yields and stretched the truth just a little so not to be outdone by our neighbour? And does my lifestyle and diet have any significance with regard to pesticide use anyway?

If I lead a poor lifestyle and diet, surely my chance of serious illness is enhanced whether I use pesticides or not? If my final years are beset with health problems, is that down to old age, poor lifestyle or just being too long sitting on the sprayer?

When I get to question 79 – yes, 79 – I have to answer questions on my health. It asks me to tick the boxes if I have suffered from dizziness, nausea, loss of appetite, fast heart rate, difficulty concentrating, feeling angry or irritable. This has just described a full farming year so I tick the lot.

I wonder if my answers give the impression I am in poor health and lead an unsuitable lifestyle. Combine this with my family medical history, will it have any consequences? Maybe NROSO will forbid me to sit on a sprayer again, or consider me unfit to handle pesticides due to mood swings.

Yes, I know it is supposed to be confidential but cynical me cannot rule out leaked information.

The questions on diet are priceless. Can I really remember how many times in a week I eat a banana, prunes or tinned fruit? Can I be bothered? Sorry, questionnaires like this are just too time-consuming and require too much thought.

Time for a coffee break – must remember to add that to my weekly caffeine intake. Later, after further investigation, I come across the consent form that allows individuals from the Health and Safety Executive to look at certain parts of my medical notes alongside expert researchers.

The alarm bells ring again – what if I have a farm accident and the HSE gets involved? Will my medical record be taken into account? Will my banana consumption render me unfit to control a sprayer or my three flasks of tea a day make me unfit to leave the office toilet?

Maybe this medical study is just a glorified safety scam to access the working farmer’s life? Maybe our hard-up government will introduce a special tax for unhealthy, banana eating, tea drinking pesticide users. Maybe I am becoming paranoid. But what if I am not?

Imagine if my doctor says he cannot treat my bog rot because it was caused by my lack of protective clothing from 1968 to 1976. Joking apart, I am sure the study means well and we should fill it in, but mine ended up in the bin alongside the take-away containers and cider bottles.

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