Dying to Feed You: 12-year-old William Sayers lost his arm

William Sayers was 12 years old when he lost his arm in an accident on the family farm in Northern Ireland. Here, he tells his story.

It was an Easter Monday. We had been putting out slurry all day and everything was going well. It came to about half seven at night and I could hear my mother calling us for tea.

We went down and we sat around the table and my mother had presented a beautiful salad for us to eat. After we had eaten I got up to do one last load. My mother said: “Put your coat on because it’s getting cold and wet.”

It seemed to be taking forever for the last tanker load of slurry to fill and I thought I would investigate to see if I could speed it up. The pto shaft was fully guarded, apart from a gap of two inches where the shaft wasn’t covered.

My coat wasn’t zipped up and as I leaned down to alter the regulator, it became entangled with the pto shaft – dragging me in and throwing me over the top of the pto shaft violently down on to the ground.

‘Literally dying’

I remember lying there thinking it’s all over – I’m literally dying. After a while longer, I came to my senses and I managed to stand up and look down. I had nothing on, just my underwear and I could see an arm lying on the ground.

I knew it automatically – that’s my arm. I walked to the house and I could see my sister Jane looking out the window. My father came running out and got me into the car to drive me to hospital.

As we left, my Jane rung 999 for the ambulance. They sent two and we met them on the way to the hospital. They stopped us and asked: “Where’s the arm?” And my father says: “It’s not his arm – it’s his life I want saved.”

Videographer: Richard Stanton

They said they needed the arm and sent an ambulance to get it. Jane had picked it up off the ground and brought it to the table where I had eaten my salad 10 or 15 minutes earlier.

She washed the arm under the tap and got the towel I had dried my two hands on before tea. Then she got all the vegetables out the freezer and set the arm in the vegetables and wrapped it in the towel, to try to preserve it.


I woke up on the Wednesday morning. One of the nurses asked: “Would you like to see yourself?” I said I would. So they brought a big rectangular mirror with four legs and slid it up over the bed so I could see.

I was unrecognisable. It was me, but not as I remembered myself. I was badly bruised. My arm was missing but my brain was still telling me that I had two arms. I could still open and close my right hand – but it wasn’t there any longer.

The speed of recovery was unbelievable. After two weeks in hospital I was back on the farm. I wanted to show I could still do it. But with one arm, you can’t milk cows.

In the end, I had to get a job where it was easier to manage. I’ve now been with D&M Farm Services for 27 years selling Massey Ferguson tractors and other machinery.

I’m thankful my life was spared. I live life to the full – you never know what’s around the next corner. Being an ambassador to promote farm safety is really important to me.

I’m thankful my life was spared. I live life to the full – you never know what’s around the next corner. Being an ambassador to promote farm safety is really important to me.

People think: “It will never happen to me.” But it can and it does. I’m one of the lucky ones because many people don’t get a second chance.

It’s worth telling my story if it stops somebody else losing an arm or a leg or a finger – or maybe their life.

Work safely with farm machinery

Accidents are common. Where staff are employed, ensure these safety steps are implemented:

  • Awareness training of the risks – talk through safe working practices and send reminders
  • Ensure pto shafts are fully enclosed with no gap in guarding
  • Minimise contact with pto, and avoid working in that area
  • Never lean over or touch a running pto
  • Avoid loose clothing
  • Tie back hair and don’t wear jewellery that could snag
  • Avoid lone working – make sure someone is close by or knows what you’re doing
  • Make sure you have a means of communication and signal. If no signal, have an alternative way to communicate. Don’t accept bad signal as an excuse
  • Have an emergency procedure in place This should include how to treat the injury with first aid, as well as contact details for support and emergency services.

Source: Safety Revolution

Dying to Feed You

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Farming has the highest number of workplace fatalities of all occupations. Farmers Weekly is pledging to use its voice, influence and reach to reduce the accident rate in agriculture.

Find out how you can be a part of helping us change agriculture’s safety record at fwi.co.uk/dying-to-feed-you

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Safety Revoltion

The team at Safety Revolution are delighted to be working with Farmers Weekly to reduce deaths in agriculture and to show how we can work together to create safer farms.

Building strong and positive safety cultures delivers happy and safe teams, fewer incidents and improved productivity. We look forward to exploring individual case studies and shining a light