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"One moment off-balance and my leg was gone"

Farmers involved in agricultural accidents tell their stories to warn others of work hazards.

Farmer Anthony Flanagan who lost a leg in a combine harvester accident.
Farmer Anthony Flanagan who lost a leg in a combine harvester accident.
Image: HSA via Youtube

ALMOST A DOZEN farmers have decided to put the stories of their traumatic farm accidents on Youtube to warn others about the dangers of working in agriculture.

Amputations, toxic slurry pit gases, chronic injury and near-death run-ins with animals all feature on the moving and honest stories related through the Health and Safety Authority Farm Accidents Youtube channel.

One of the latest experiences related to the channel is that of Anthony Flanagan who lost his leg in just a few moments on a combine harvester:

via farmaccidents/Youtube

Cork dairy farmer Liam O’Keeffe also shares his story of being attacked by a bull on his farm – the animal struck him five or six times in a matter of seconds:

I fell down on the ground. I was sure when I was against the wall that I could see the coffin. I thought there’s no way out of here. At that stage, he was trying to stand on top of me.

Miraculously, Liam managed to catch the chain attached to the bull’s nose ring and fend off the bull just enough for him to escape. He underwent an eight-hour emergency operation for a broken pelvis, backbone and bowel injuries and has had ten operations since. “If he’d hit me a few inches higher, I’d be in a wheelchair.”

In some cases, the farmers did not survive to tell their own stories – one poignant testimony comes from James Murphy, of the IFA National Sheep Committee, whose father was killed by a bull on the home farm.

The high-profile deaths of rugby player Nevin Spence, his father and brother in a slurry tank accident last year are echoed in the accident suffered by Galway farmer Eoin Goldrick. He was overcome by toxic fumes from his slurry tank. He said the dangers posed by any deviation from best practice in dealing with slurry tanks were massive:

It’s like running into a fire. You will be caught.

A spokesperson for the HSA told TheJournal.ie this week that several farmers had been inspired to tell their stories after seeing some initial survivor stories on the Farm Accidents website:

The HSA has used research to identify that while most farmers understand the hazards of farming, they perceive their own farm as being safe. Many think it won’t happen to them, but when an accident does happen it can take many years, if ever, to recover.

Pat Griffin, a senior inspector with the HSA, said that the testimonies had high impact value and would hopefully lead to other farmers learning from the mistakes and experiences of others. Farmers can carry out a risk assessment on their own working conditions using this guideline document. Some tips and advice on safeguarding farms are here.

Last year, 21 people died in Ireland of agricultural accidents. This was one less person than in 2011, but is still DOUBLE the number of fatalities there were in 2009.

Farmers’ association urges caution as busy farms signal rise in accidents>

How safe is your workplace?>

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