Tuesday’s focus this Farm Safety Week is machinery. Poorly used or faulty machinery is a major cause of death and injury on farms. Farmers come into contact with a host of machinery daily – combines, choppers and hay balers which bring their own attendant dangers.
Machinery accidents can be prevented by keeping the machine in good repair, fitting and ensuring all safety equipment, such as guards, safe access platforms and ROPS on tractors, are operating with the machine at all times and not taking risks when working with powerful machinery.
At R.A.B.I, we can provide financial and practical support to farmers who have unfortunately had accidents at work. This week, we’ll be hearing from farmers who have kindly agreed to share their stories.
Gwilym Williams, dairy farmer from Llangrannog
After losing his left arm in a life changing accident almost 33 years ago, Gwilym Williams, an 80-year-old dairy farmer from Hendre, Llangrannog, is all too aware of how easily a risk that you have taken hundreds of times before can change your life forever.
Gwilym admits to not taking the proper care with a routine task, something every farmer and farm worker has probably done in their time. Unfortunately for him, on that occasion his actions had life-changing consequences.
Gwilym was taking out the slurry, something he had done hundreds of times before, but on this occasion he put another PTO (power take-off) shaft on the slurry pump because the shaft bolt kept shearing off.
“I had been operating that machine for three years, but with the right shaft on,” he recalls. “Handling something every day you get blasé about it. But things are not the same every day. You may be the same, but the machine might not be, and there’s a problem.”
Gwilym suffered a permanently dislocated shoulder, seven broken ribs and torn knee ligaments and it took the medical team 10 days to decide not to amputate his other arm.
He explains “It was the family that suffered most, not me. The family had to look after me and 50% of the workforce on the farm was gone.”
For Gwilym, a father of two, adapting to life after his accident involved ups and downs. “My wife Bethan and I had two children, Huw and Lynwen, at university and they wanted to come back but I said no way – it was my fault and I did not want their education to suffer.
“We had to sell all our 65 dairy cows before I got home because we realised that I could not milk. Now we rent some land out and we have a few sheep and we make small bale hay. There’s a lot of horse people in the village who want small bales and we are the only ones making them now.”
Today, Gwilym 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. He is a long time supporter of R.A.B.I as a member of our Ceredigion County Committee and was treasurer for around 10 years until this year. He is pictured below, second left, presenting a cheque following a fundraising event to R.A.B.I Chairman, Malcolm Thomas.
“My message to every farmer is not to become blasé like I was and check regularly that the equipment they use is in good working order.”
Glyn Roberts, President Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) said, “This Farm Safety Week we are echoing Gwilym’s call not to rely on luck when working. Remember that you are the most important asset on your farm. Farmers need to take care of themselves so that their families don’t have to cope without them because of poor physical or mental health, serious injury – or worse. Ensure equipment is switched off when making routine checks or maintenance and 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!”