National Federation of Young Farmers' Clubs

Fun, Learning, and Achievement

07 July 2015

Do not learn farm safety by accident – this is the theme of the third annual Farm Safety Week supported by NFYFC and the Farm Safety Foundation. From falls and transport to child safety – Farm Safety Week takes place from 6-10 July and offers five days of themed practical advice and guidance for farmers and coincides with the Livestock Event at Birmingham NEC.

According to Alan Plom, Chair FSP Machinery Group: “Taking precautions to ensure the safety of you and your workforce can save lives and help prevent serious injury. Much of farm work is carried out using heavy machinery and equipment and it is imperative that farmers put the safety of themselves and their employees first. Over the last 10 years, six people have been killed by contact with the moving parts of equipment or machinery – eight per cent of all fatalities.”

After losing his foot in a harvesting accident, self employed farmer Dave Allen of Cornwall is keen to highlight the harsh reality of learning safety by accident.

A third generation farmer, Dave shared his story which began in 2008 a poor year for harvesting. Wet weather had restricted work but finally the climate had changed and now that it was drier and brighter, Dave was able to resume harvesting the wheat down in Cornwall.

On this occasion Dave was working alone when a little of the grain got stuck in the tank of the combine harvester, and Dave did what he, his father, grandfather and others had done for the last 30 years and got into the tank to release it by kicking it to make it move. However, Dave’s decision to rectify the situation as quickly as possible would lead to horrific consequences.

Dave explained what happened next: "Rather than using the ladder to enter the tank, which would then stop all the mechanisms, I decided to go in over the top – which meant the mechanisms were still fully operational."


"The machinery got hold of my boot so I tried to pull my foot out of it. I managed to release my leg but realised that something was seriously wrong. I was wearing a boiler suit and couldn’t see the bottom of my leg – but I knew from the weight that my foot was gone. I also knew that it was only a matter of moments before my boiler suit was going to get caught and then that would be it. I knew I had to get out of the grain tank or I wasn’t going to survive," he recalls.

Fully conscious, Dave managed to haul himself out of the tank onto the cab roof of the combine harvester, climbed down into the cab where his phone was and rang the contractor he was working for to get him an ambulance.

After spending a month in hospital and a month with family learning to move around with crutches, Dave then had the painful process of learning to walk again, months of physiotherapy and adapting to a prosthesis. Even after everything he endured Dave considers himself one of the lucky ones…

"I have been so lucky. I’ve had a good support system around me and the contractor I was working for continued paying me so there was no hardship financially. Not everyone is that blessed. It was five months before I was able to return to work and life could have been much worse than it turned out to be."

"I’d never broken a bone in my body before that day," he says, "Everybody in farming knows somebody who has been injured or killed in an accident. My advice to others is quite simple: do not do what I did. Just really think and realise that these safety devices are there for a reason and do not over-ride them. One day it could be you. Don’t think it only happens to others. I’m proof that isn’t the case."

James added: “This Farm Safety Week we are echoing Dave’s call not to learn safety by accident. PTO shafts are dangerous and can rip off a limb or kill in seconds. Make sure they are fitted with proper guards that are correctly used and maintained. A properly guarded PTO shaft prevents life changing injuries and even death. Always take your time to think about what you are doing and what might go wrong as making a few simple checks could actually save a life – maybe your own!

 


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