Dying to feed you: James just cried and said ‘Mum, I’ve lost my arm’

James Chapman lost his left arm after his jacket was caught in a pto shaft. Read his story and watch the video.

I think it was a Thursday morning. I got a phone call from from a friend of mine who needed somebody on the Friday to suck out the underground tanks that hold the run-off from the from the yard.

See also: Find out more about our Dying to Feed you campaign

I rarely thought about farm safety – my view on it was pretty non-existent. It wasn’t something we ever talked about – only at college, where they pretty much told us that statistically, one of us would be seriously injured or killed on farm.

I’m the son of a dairy farmer. Both my grandparents were farmers and farming has been in at least one side of my family for many generations. I had worked for a contractor and never really worked anywhere else, apart from on my dad’s farm.

Over time, I gradually started to want to do more things for myself, so I bought my own tractor. I was about 22 or 23 years old. I don’t know whether I ever gave safety much thought at all – which, in hindsight, is in itself a major problem.

On this particular day, I went to the farm and got the tractor out, hooked it onto the slurry tanker and set off doing what I was told to do.

I put the pipe in the tank and set it all running with the tractor at just about 1400 revs, which is usually enough to do what I wanted to do.

Right direction

I got the handle on top of the pump, and checked it was pointing in the right direction and actually sucking and doing what it should do. And I definitely remember it was. It was definitely blowing – I’d got it going the right way.

Just as I was feeling I had done it right, I could feel a pull on my jacket. It had got caught in the pto shaft. Everything felt like slow motion. I knew I’d got my jacket caught in the pto and I thought I could hold myself back.

It felt like I’d got enough time to do that – to go through that thought process. So I put my hands out to try to hold myself away. But there is nothing you can do once it’s got hold of you like that. I went into the shaft, and my arm went round with it.

The world went fuzzy and I went over the shaft too. I must have hit the drawbar and I landed on the floor on the other side. I knew right away what had happened. I grabbed hold of where my left arm had been and just held on to the bone and the bits that were left there and I lay on the floor and screamed.


When they push you into the hospital, the only thing you’re worried about is the pain and the loss of the arm. My mum was there. And I just cried and said: “Mum, I’ve lost my arm”.

What more can you say? It affects the people you leave behind and the people around you far more than yourself.

You know, we see risk in everything we do – whether it’s planting crops and not knowing what you’re going to get for them at the end of the year, or dealing with livestock, not knowing whether they’re going to be alive the next day.

So risk is one of those things we’re used to – and almost become complacent about. I put the pto on the tractor and I knew it was unsafe.

Sometimes it’s about having the courage to say no – saying my life is worth more than that and I want to take care of it. My advice is, have the courage to say no. Please.

Advice on machinery accident prevention

  •  If machinery does not look safe, don’t use it
  • Report unsafe or damaged machines to the owner
  • If it’s someone else’s machine, check that they have made sure it’s safe
  • Have an emergency plan and ensure staff are trained to deal with a trauma
  • Have a trauma kit to hand
  • Make sure you follow up and offer help with post-traumatic stress – the quicker it’s addressed, the better the long-term prognosis

Dying to Feed You

Dying to feed you logoAbout the campaign

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

Partner message

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