After losing his foot in a harvesting accident, self employed farmer Dave Allen of Cornwall is keen to highlight the harsh reality of learning safety by accident.
A third generation farmer, Dave shared his story which began in 2008, a poor year for harvesting. Wet weather had restricted work but finally the climate had changed and now that it was drier and brighter, Dave was able to resume harvesting the wheat down in Cornwall.
On this occasion Dave was working alone when a little of the grain got stuck in the tank of the combine harvester. Dave did what he, his father, grandfather and others had done for the last 30 years and got into the tank to release it by kicking it to make it move. However, Dave’s decision to rectify the situation as quickly as possible would lead to horrific consequences.
Dave explained what happened next: "Rather than using the ladder to enter the tank, which would then stop all the mechanisms, I decided to go in over the top – which meant the mechanisms were still fully operational.
"The machinery got hold of my boot so I tried to pull my foot out of it. I managed to release my leg but realised that something was seriously wrong. I was wearing a boiler suit and couldn’t see the bottom of my leg – but I knew from the weight that my foot was gone. I also knew that it was only a matter of moments before my boiler suit was going to get caught and then that would be it. I knew I had to get out of the grain tank or I wasn’t going to survive," he recalls.
Fully conscious, Dave managed to haul himself out of the tank onto the cab roof of the combine harvester, climbed down into the cab where his phone was and rang the contractor he was working for to get him an ambulance.
After spending a month in hospital and a month with family learning to move around with crutches, Dave then had the painful process of learning to walk again, months of physiotherapy and adapting to a prosthesis. Even after everything he endured Dave considers himself one of the lucky ones…
"I have been so lucky. I’ve had a good support system around me and the contractor I was working for continued paying me so there was no hardship financially. Not everyone is that blessed. It was five months before I was able to return to work and life could have been much worse than it turned out to be."
"I’d never broken a bone in my body before that day," he says, "Everybody in farming knows somebody who has been injured or killed in an accident. My advice to others is quite simple: do not do what I did. Just really think and realise that these safety devices are there for a reason and do not over-ride them. One day it could be you. Don’t think it only happens to others. I’m proof that isn’t the case."
Read more about Dave's story here.