How dangerous can farming be?
Lack of communication, tiredness, adjustment to daily risks and absence of the proper safety precautions may cost someone not just well-being, but their life.
Fortunately, Dwayne Stanton, who chose to use a pseudonym for the interview, made it out of his farm accident alive. However, the injuries he suffered were serious and painful, and a month later he is still dealing with the aftermath and is not able to get back to work.
Stanton, who farms in southern Saskatchewan, is running a 2,000-acre crop operation and is a livestock producer, taking care of a couple hundred cows. Maintenance of the equipment is one of his daily duties, which usually doesn’t create any problems.
However, on Feb. 8 things didn’t work out the way they should.
“I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, I guess,” Stanton said.
The bale shredder, used to feed cows and spread straw, has been acting up for some time. When it once again got plugged, Stanton along with the hired-hand had to bring it in to get fixed.
“The rubbers were worn out and hay was getting stuck in there… We had a new operator in it that day and I told the guy, ‘Don’t put a bale on top of the core bale.’ Because then hay gets stuck in there. OK. So he comes in to the little feed yard we got and he said, ‘There is hay stuck in there.’ He was having troubles with it, so I said, ‘Fire it up, we’ll clean that hay out,’” Stanton recalls.
“He fired it up, turned the PTO on, and I didn’t even look to see what he was doing. I thought he would start turning the rollers, but (he) started going down on the tines (bale processor). And when he started going down on the tines, I was already underneath the tines. Cleaning out underneath there.”
Stanton got out of there, but his hoodie got stuck – caught on the bolts. The machine dragged him back in and he was squished. By the time the hired-hand noticed that something was wrong and jumped out of the tractor, all he could see were his boss’ boots.
“He didn’t know what to think, he comes running back and here I am getting choked … by my hoodie. So he ripped it up and lifted the tines up. My hoodie was still stuck and I just ripped it up my arms and it ripped off the hoodie right off my body,” Stanton said.
The doctor diagnosed a compression fracture in his back. Following the accident Stanton also developed blood clots in his chest and leg, allegedly caused by stress or by the accident itself. A clot in the leg is now causing swelling.
Stanton believes that the accident was preventable and happened due to miscommunication, which is an often issue in the world of farming.
“I wouldn’t have thought nothing about it, if I would got out of there,” he said.
This accident will affect his attitude towards safety in the future.
“We take a lot of stuff for granted… It’s dangerous. You are at risk every day.”
Working with cattle, operating and fixing equipment, dealing with extreme weather conditions and chemicals, having constant stress on your shoulders, all bears serious risks. And the human factor adds onto to it.
“You could be tired, lack of sleep, played out or … When you do something everyday, same thing every day, complacent I think it’s called, just take it for granted.”
And with the constant lack of time, a lot of farm operators put safety in the last place, but only until situations like Stanton’s or worse happen to them.
For Stanton, this accident became an alarm, but it also reminded him of how generous and supportive his farm community is.
“We probably couldn’t have got through what happened without the neighbours and the brother-in-laws. The one neighbour was over today, he was helping me with that heifer. Words can’t describe what he’s done, he’s been over every day, checking cows at night,” Stanton said, thanking his neighbours for all support they gave to his family.
So far, he hardly can do anything around the yard, yet this accident could have ended up much worse.