Accident stirs reminder about farm safety

The sprayer booms were being folded up for the last time after another fungicide application on the chickpeas. It did not go well.


The left boom tip did its normal high aerial arc but lodged on the top of the frame before sliding into place. 


“Need to adjust the alignment a bit,” I thought while getting out of the cab. 


Just a little push and the boom would slide past the frame.


It required a bigger push than ex-pected and then the boom dropped like a rock into its holder with my right hand underneath. In an instant, I found myself face down on the ground assessing the injury.


Fingers were all attached, but some blood was running out of the palm. Above the wrist and below the base of the thumb had been crunched, but I could still wiggle the thumb. It hurt like hell.


I was able to finish putting the sprayer into transport and get back to the yard, but there was considerable moaning and groaning.


My wife says I’m a wussy when it comes to pain, and she’s probably right. No bones were broken and some heavy duty antibiotics should ward off any infection. Gradually, I’m able to make more use of the hand.


A right thumb is rather invaluable for running a combine, not to mention all the minor maintenance and repairs that need to be done before the combines are ready to roll. As a result, I’m pretty impatient for the healing process.


I’d bemoan what the injury has done to my golfing, but my game was hopeless to begin with.


Reflecting on the accident, it’s scary to think how serious it might have been. I’ve often wondered if I’d have the intestinal fortitude to collect severed fingers and take them with me to the hospital in the hope of reattachment. 


I’ve also wondered what it would be like to have a hand or other body part caught in a piece of equipment with nobody around to help. 


In 2003, Saskatchewan farmer Bruce Osiowy cut off two of his fingers after being caught in a rock picker for nearly three days. The accident received national attention.


I make a point of keeping my cellphone in my pocket rather than setting it out in the cab. However, at this particular field location, there may not have been cellphone coverage.


It was reasonably close to the road, but the road is really a trail and it can go without any traffic for days at a time. 


My wife would send out a posse if she failed to hear from me for an extended period of time. It wouldn’t take three days, but even half a day of hurt and bleeding would be torture. 


I wasn’t carrying my Leatherman tool with its knife that the kids gave me, so there would have been no slice and release option.


Over the years, I’ve become less rambunctious and more safety conscience, but there’s obviously still room for improvement. 


In my view, many safety recommendations have limited merit. For instance, who is going to wear a seatbelt when running a tractor across level ground?


The best defence is strategic thinking. What might happen if I give that snagged sprayer boom a push? Do I have my cellphone with me at all times? If I’m working alone, is there someone to check in with periodically?


The busy harvest season is approaching. Think safety.

Kevin Hursh is an agricultural journalist, consultant and farmer. He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]