Take chances with machinery? Not on your life!

editorial image

Do not learn farm safety by accident – this is the theme of the third annual Farm Safety Week supported by the Farm Safety Foundation, Farm Safety Partnerships, the Health & Safety Executive, Health & Safety Executive for Northern Ireland and Health & Safety Authority, Ireland.

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 Martin Malone, NI Regional Manager NFU Mutual and NI Farm Safety Partnership member: “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 15 years, 39 people have been killed in farm accidents involving equipment or machinery.”

Most Power take-off (PTO) accidents occur when clothing and/or limbs are entangled in the rotating shaft. In this case study we learned of the devastating consequences of such an accident.

After losing his arm in an accident when he was twelve years old, William Sayers is keen to highlight the harsh reality of learning safety by accident.

William was off school for the Easter holidays. William and his older friend Jonathan had one final load of slurry to spread before finishing for the day. Before heading out to finish the final load William’s mother called him back to put on his coat. William said: “I went back and put on the coat but I didn’t bother zipping it up because I knew I wouldn’t be long out.”

William noticed that the tanker wasn’t sucking the slurry in as quickly as he would have liked. As he leaned in to adjust the oil flow to the vacuum pump, he felt something tugging on his coat and knew instantly what was wrong.

He explained what happened next: “I realised I was caught in the PTO shaft and was flung instantly onto the ground. I got up onto my feet and I remember looking down and there were no clothes on me bar a pair of underwear and socks. My brain’s telling me that I have two arms but when I look down to the right there’s an arm lying beside me. This is my arm.”

Amazingly, William walked back to his house and from there he was rushed to Altnagelvin Hospital. Meanwhile, his seventeen year-old sister Jane retrieved the arm before washing and wrapping it in ice to help preserve the limb. After fourteen hours of surgery, doctors made the decision that William’s arm could not be reattached.

Today, William describes himself as one of the luckiest people in the world to be alive and be in a position to offer advice to other farmers.

Farm workers of any age run the risk of injury or death from machinery related accidents. Working with machinery of all types is an ever-present danger on farms.

Martin added: “This Farm Safety Week we are echoing William’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!” #FarmSafetyWeek