Farming

Wales supports Farm Safety Week

Rhys Lewis: Farm Safety Week
Rhys Lewis: Farm Safety Week

FARM SAFETY WEEK is an initiative which launched in 2013 aiming to cut the toll of accidents which give agriculture the poorest record of any occupation in the UK & Ireland. This year’s Farm Safety Week was supported by a greater number of organisations than ever including the Farm Safety Foundation, Farm Safety Partnerships, the Health & Safety Executive, Health & Safety Executive for Northern Ireland and the Health & Safety Authority, Ireland. From falls and transport to child safety – Farm Safety Week (July 6-10) offered five days of themed practical advice and guidance for farmers and comes just after the HSE released the annual workplace fatality statistics for Great Britain in 2014/15.

In 2014/15, 33 fatal injuries to agricultural workers were recorded – a rate 9.12 deaths per 100,000 workers, the same as the average of 33 deaths in the past five years and, unfortunately, an increase from the 27 deaths recorded in 2013/14. According to Iwan Meirion Chairman Wales YFC and Chairman of the Wales Farm Safety Partnership: “While our farmers are among the best in the world, farming continues to have one of the poorest records of any occupation in the UK and Ireland and while all farm accidents are shocking and dreadfully sad, the saddest thing is that they can often be prevented. A fall can lead to long term injuries and make it difficult to keep on farming.

Most Falls from Height accidents occur either because the work is not properly planned, the risks are not recognised, proper precautions are not taken, or the equipment used is either defective, not appropriate, or used incorrectly. Often people about to undertake a job believe it will ‘only take a few minutes’, and take a risk in the hope that simply being very careful will be enough.” Deputy Minister for Farming and Food, Rebecca Evans, added: “We are committed to working together with the sector for a safer farming industry in Wales.

By working with the industry we can do much more to ensure that farmers are equipped with the information and training they need to be able to make that promise to themselves and to their families to come home safe. We want to reduce the number of fatalities and injuries caused to farmers, their families, farm employees and others who come into contact with farm activities and I hope this year’s Farm Safety Week will help bring these numbers down.” Even the most safety conscious farmers can experience the effects of a serious injury. In a recent case, a young farmer from the Dysynni Valley was carrying out routine pruning on fieldside boundaries on the family farm when he was hit by a falling tree crushing his spine. 25-year-old Machynlleth rugby club player Rhys Lewis had graduated from Aberystwyth University and was enjoying a promising rugby career when a falling tree changed his life forever… Rhys had been pruning fieldside boundaries with his father Gwyn when a tree he was felling split in two. Rhys tried to run, but it was too late. “What made it crack, I have no idea,” Rhys explained.

“I tried to run away but the tree hit me. I couldn’t stand up. I shouted for my dad but he couldn’t hear me as he was still using his chainsaw on another tree. It was then that I passed out, for about 60 seconds. When I came to, my dad had realised what had happened.” Rhys tried to move his legs but found he was unable to: “I thought I was in a bad dream and that I was going to wake up any moment,” he continued. On the flight to North Staffordshire Hospital, Rhys was already starting to rationalise the accident and work out his future. After a transfer to Gobowen Orthopaedic Hospital, Rhys was already coming to terms with his new life.

The most important thing, he concluded, was not to mope: although he remained in hospital for eight weeks, one day after his release, he made sure he was at the Royal Welsh Show, surrounded by friends enjoying Wales’ premier farming event. “Nothing’s changed from a social point of view,” he smiled. Rather than dwell on his misfortunes, Rhys’ positive approach has won him many admirers including Lisa Markham, an equine enthusiast and family friend who has set up the Apel Rhys Appeal so Rhys can pursue his dreams of a para-sporting career.

But the inspirational young farmer won’t stop there, his long-term goal is to one day walk again! Rhys’ story reinforces that fact that farm workers of any age run the risk of injury or death from falls or falling objects. Iwan added: “Falling objects can be a frequent danger on farms. Falls are one of the most common causes of death and serious injury, especially among older farmers who are less flexible. However farmers and farm workers of any age run the risk of injury or death from Falls. It is vital that the farming community take the time to think about what they are doing and what might go wrong. Don’t learn safety by accident!” #FarmSafetyWeek

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Dayne Stone

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