By Alex Sampson
A farm accident left John Birdsey on life support with a broken spine, crushed ribs and a punctured lung. By the time Mr Birdsey realised the bull he'd loaded into a truck was walking back out, he didnt have time to shut the gate to stop it, and it crushed him.
“I heard everything go ‘crack’, which was my ribs and my spine, and I ended up on my hands and knees at the bottom of the ramp realising I was in big trouble,” Mr Birdsey said.
“It was a real near-miss.”
It was something he had done “a thousand” times before on the beef stud farm he had owned for 40 years at Perry Bridge, in Gippsland.
“It was a genuine accident,” Mr Birdsey said. “You don’t give it a thought because you’ve done it that many times before — you don’t really concentrate on the unexpected.
“Obviously I should have taken more care — I was too slow to shut the gate.
“If I’d been younger I probably would have rushed up the ramp behind the bull, but I was 78 and I was too old to be rushing anywhere.
“In hindsight, obviously, I shouldn’t have been doing it at all or I should have had somebody helping me.”
Mr Birdsey had someone working for him before the accident, but they left to find better-paid work.
WorkSafe has revealed more than 2200 farm injuries were reported in the five years to June 30 — 30 per cent of them caused by poor or awkward manual handling, 46 per cent of those injured were aged between 40 and 59 and dairy workers were most likely to be injured (22 per cent).
Occupational health and safety adviser Dave Holland, who was nearly killed in a machinery accident on the outskirts of Melbourne in 2004, said farming was the most dangerous industry in Australia.
“It’s about time to introduce the idea that farmers in our society are facing enormous risk and they’re not getting a lot of support, and it’s about time we give it,” Mr Holland said.
“I don’t think anybody is talking about these issues.”
That said, he doesn’t believe farmers are going to learn from “a city slicker coming in and telling them what’s what”.
“We have to empower farmers to come together and speak about these issues with each other.”
RMIT safety specialist Susanne Tepe said farmers were at risk of injury due to the constantly changing work environment.
“They are continually confronted with new challenges, so their job needs to be a continual cycle of thinking of what you are going to do, plan to do it safely, do what you planned but watch continually for changes in the environment,” Dr Tepe said.
“If it’s not turning out right, do the think, plan, do, check cycle again.”
Article from Weekly Times, December 21, 2016
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