Did you know that whilst farming accounts for just 1.5% of the UK’s workforce, farmers account for 15-20% of all workplace fatalities? As a result, it continues to have the poorest record of any occupation in the UK.
Farm Safety Week, an initiative launched in 2013 by the Farm Safety Foundation aiming to reduce the number of accidents, starts today and offers advice and guidance for farmers. It encourages farmers to consider ‘who would fill your boots?’ if something were to happen to them at work.
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 two such farmers who have kindly agreed to share their stories.
Darren’s accident happened in 2013. He was out running the potato harvester early one morning, alone, in preparation for a day’s work. He tried to kick a stone out of the cleaning system at the back of the machine – something he had done ‘a million times before’ – but his foot got caught in the rollers and pulled him in. As he tried to free himself, his left arm and his other leg also got trapped. He remained there for around 25 minutes until two colleagues arrived for work and raised the alarm.
Darren was airlifted to Leeds General Infirmary and put in an induced coma for eight days. He underwent three major operations and spent three months in hospital.
That was in October 2013. Some two-and-a-half years on, Darren is ‘starting again’. He lost his right leg below the knee and his left leg right up to his hip. His left arm had to be removed from just below the elbow, but was sown back on. He cannot bend it and has limited use of the hand. He is, however, very much alive, as is his steely determination that is both courageous and inspirational.
“It was one of those flinty stones, they get in and they stick,” he said. “What’s ironic is the first time I tried to get it out I actually switched the machine off, but I couldn’t hear where it was so I put the machine back on. The only thing I can think off that was different that day was that I had a new pair of boots on and they were a bit softer. I was unlucky – and more unlucky to be on my own. If someone had been with me I would probably only have lost a foot.”
Nowadays, Darren thinks he is more safety conscious, particularly for others. He also feels his accident has changed the way colleagues think and work. He added: “Farming is weather-related and there are big pressures just to get on with things. I want to make money like anyone else, but for the sake of 10 minutes switch the machines off. I’m 47 and have had a big part of my life but I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.
“Farm machinery is generally much safer than it used to be but it’s also a lot stronger. It’s become so good that you do a lot more work on your own. When things do go wrong the machines are less forgiving. Thirty years ago I would probably have been able to stop the harvester myself, but not now.”