'I could have died': Farmer rethinks farm safety after accident

'I could have died. I could have been in a wheelchair for the rest of my life', the farmer said
'I could have died. I could have been in a wheelchair for the rest of my life', the farmer said

A dairy farmer who suffered a serious machinery accident earlier this year has highlighted how it made him rethink his attitude to farm safety.

Second generation Worcestershire dairy farmer Chris Heath suffered life-threatening injuries when he was propelled from the tractor he was driving.

Still moving backwards, the hundred horsepower tractor - with a front-end loader and sheer grab also attached - ran straight over him.

Chris suffered injuries that included a pelvis fractured in four places, three displaced vertebrae, a dislocated shoulder, six broken ribs and serious internal crush injuries to his bowel.

That same evening, after being airlifted to Coventry Hospital, the father-of-two was in theatre having part of his bowel removed.

He was put into an induced coma and it was more than three weeks before he came around.

'I could have died'

The accident happened in January 2019, but within six months, Chris was walking around the farm again and taking nothing more than Paracetamol.

He’s amazed doctors, family and friends with his progress, but he knows he’s been lucky.

He said: “I could have died. I could have been in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. I still have quite a few issues, but I know things could have been much worse.”

Chris admits that the accident happened because he ‘did not have his head in gear’ and was trying to do things too fast.

He said: “I’d had lots of near misses before but never had a bad accident. Once, I narrowly escaped being crushed by a bull.

“Another time I turned over a tractor doing a silage pit and just walked away and carried on working. Not this time.”

Rethink farm safety

The accident has forced Chris to rethink lots of things including his own attitudes to farm safety.

Now, when driving the tractor, he always makes sure he puts the handbrake on when he stops and puts the manual gearbox into neutral.

The family contacted farming charity RABI who provided an initial grant towards the costs of relief farm staff.

Because of the large vet bills and delays in benefit claims, it also provided a secondary grant in June.

The family subsequently sent RABI a ‘thank you’ card which read: “When an accident like this happens I don’t think you are ever prepared.

“Our biggest concern was the welfare of the stock, especially the dairy cows. Finding people to help was one thing – paying them was another…”

It added: “I don’t’ know what we would do without you.”

Farm Safety Week

New figures have revealed that 39 people lost their lives on farms in one year alone, making agriculture the deadliest industry.

Of those killed during 2018/19, 32 were agricultural workers and 7 were members of the public, including two children.

Eight people who tragically lose their lives were over the age of 65.

The figures come as Farm Safety Week commences today (15 July) to work with those in the industry to make real change in improving the poor safety record.

It aims to inspire farmers to look after their physical and mental wellbeing and reduce the number of life-changing and life-ending accidents on farms.