Farm Safety Week: transport

In recent years, work-related fatalities in the UK and Ireland’s farming industries have been disproportionate compared to the number of deaths in other industries.

Tractors and moving vehicles have claimed the lives of 30 farm workers in the past five years according to the HSE, representing one of the biggest dangers on a farm. Day four of the fourth annual Farm Safety Week UK and Ireland, which is supported by NFU Scotland, focuses on highlighting the issues surrounding transport and how to prevent transport-related accidents on the farm.

According to Martin Malone, NFU Mutual’s Regional Manager Northern Ireland and Scotland and Farm Safety Partnership Scotland member said: “Unfortunately farming has the poorest safety record of any occupation in the UK and Ireland. A lack of knowledge of safety regulations and personal safety practices at all experience levels puts farm workers at serious risk of debilitating injury or worse. By increasing our knowledge and awareness of safety in all aspects of agriculture, we can begin to challenge, prevent and stop unsafe habits and practices, while giving farmers of all ages a sense of independence and control over their own personal safety.”

One such farmer, 27-year-old James Armstrong, knows all too well the ongoing effects of having such an accident following an incident with a tractor in his teens.

With a craving for a Chinese takeaway, James, who was 16 at the time, decided it would be a great idea to in-hitch the tanker and fill a tractor with diesel on the family farm to allow him to make use of his newly-obtained tractor licence.

Alone on the premises, James took a risk and leapt off the tractor, falling onto one of the link arms and landing on a rather compromised place. To compound the situation, James didn’t have a mobile phone, and with no one around, he was forced – whilst in a significant amount of pain – to free himself and drive to a nearby house to call for help from a farm worker to take him to hospital.

James, who now farms in partnership with his father, explained: “On inspection with a mirror I thought I’d just need a couple of stitches. We’d been at slurry during the day, so I went for a bath knowing that I was having to go to the hospital. When at Kirkcudbright Hospital I then realised how severe my accident was. My sister Judith, who was working in a local hotel a half hour drive away, was called to take me to Dumfries as my parents were at a wedding reception out with the area.

“The doctors described my injuries as a stab wound. I had a four inch tear up the back of my left leg. I spent five days in hospital and it took me a few weeks to be able to sit down. For the next few months I had to find work off-farm as I was unable to drive tractors or perform most day to day basic tasks.”

Since 2006 James has undergone two operations, the most recent one just last year. He recalls: “As a young lad I wanted to show off that I had my tractor licence. If I’d climbed down it would have been likely that I would have avoided injury.”

Martin Malone adds: “James’ advice to climb down rather than jump down from machinery and use your common sense is something that we should all take away from this story. Unfortunately most farm safety issues are commonplace but they aren’t common practice and this is why initiatives like Farm Safety Week are so important. Bringing the whole industry together to share a common message means that we are doing something to address this poor safety record.

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