“It was a nightmare for me!” Ariane Pritchard states emphatically. “I would like to make sure that no one will have to face the fact that they didn’t know how to stop a tractor.” She is referring to the terrifying tractor accident that happened on Feb. 16 at her premises on the Gore Road.
While blowing snow with his tractor in the driveway, her husband Eric Pritchard lost his balance and fell under the snowblower. He was discovered pinned by the tractor, which was still in gear but stationary. He was conscious and called directions to his wife to turn off the tractor. Although she was unable to fully shut down the machine, she was able to reduce the engine speed until the Hinchinbrooke Volunteer Fire Brigade arrived on the scene.
Eric Pritchard was transported to the Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM), where he underwent many surgeries. It will be a long haul, but he has progressed in his recovery to the extent that he was recently transferred to the Barrie Memorial Hospital in Ormstown.
The Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA) reports that “70 per cent of agricultural fatalities are machine-related to rollovers, runovers and entanglements.” Although between 1990 and 2012 there was a reduction in farm fatalities, on average 85 Canadians per year have lost their lives in farm-related accidents. How do we avoid these fatalities? We spoke to Gordon Furey, who has 40 years of experience in machinery maintenance behind him, and 40 years of service to the Ormstown Fire Department including many years as fire chief. Furey suggests that before an emergency happens, there are some protocols that should be put in place.
First, understanding how to switch off a tractor is mandatory. Unfortunately, because there are so many different makes and models, this is not so straightforward. “Some will stop by turning off the key, but many others need (you) to pull out or push in a stop cable to shut off the fuel supply. Some stop by shutting off the throttle lever,” Furey says. If you are not familiar with your tractor it can be difficult to stop the engine; therefore, it is important that all family members or employees understand how the family tractor works.
Furey also suggests that in addition to training, it would be a good idea to apply decals to the machine with instructions on how to shut off the engine: “ ‘PULL TO STOP’ beside the stop cable, or ‘PTO OFF’ with an arrow indicating the direction of the lever,” he suggests. Such decals can be purchased from some machinery dealers, or custom-made and purchased locally in Ormstown at Les Enseignes Dumas on Route 138.
Another recommendation from Furey is that every property or farm have an emergency plan in place before any accidents happen. Family members should be familiar with this plan; too often, people are excited or distraught at the time of an incident and are unable to think clearly without one. Outlines for these plans can be customized to your needs and can be easily found on the internet.
The CASA has a 156-page document online that contains recommendations for safety planning, injury prevention, hazard assessment, and putting together an emergency response plan. It does not need to be complicated: “The first thing to do when there is an emergency is to call 911. Get help on the way,” Furey says. “So often people try to do things and fix things — it’s minutes going by. The fire department is only a few minutes away, but if they don’t have the call, they are not coming.”
People often work by themselves; therefore, two-way radios or cellphones need to be close by. Contact numbers and neighbours’ phone numbers need to be readily available and checked yearly for changes.
Furey also suggests having “an easily accessible area where there is a supply of chains, ratchet straps, crowbars, wooden blocks and pieces of plywood” so they are available to use in an emergency. It is also handy to have a working fire extinguisher nearby. Emergencies can occur at night and in winter, so a flashlight and emergency blankets should also be on hand.
An updated first aid kit is essential. Again, recommendations as to what should be included can be found online and customized to the needs of your establishment. Along with the basic requirements, it is a good idea to include an eyewash, sanitary napkins (to staunch bleeding) and a first aid manual.
Since the beginning of the last century, the development of technology within the agricultural sector has propelled productivity. Agricultural machinery has become bigger and better. But that immense productivity brings immense risks.
It is important to be diligent and implement farm safety every day.
March 14 to 20 is Canadian Agricultural Safety Week. Information on all aspects of farm safety is on the CASA website at casa-acsa.ca.