Matthew Naylor: Staying safe isn’t for wimps

What’s that you say? You’ve fallen off the roof? You’ve got third degree burns? You aren’t conscious and you’ve stopped breathing? Hey, relax. It’s not a problem – I’ve just done my first aid course. I’ll have you sorted out in no time. A few chest compressions here, a triangular bandage there, a limb in the air and the job’s a good ‘un.

First aid is a curious skill, learnt in the hope that you’ll never need it. I was originally trained for my Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and have happy memories of pretending to be unconscious and being rolled into the recovery position on a tiled floor in the Grammar School library. I haven’t found an activity since at which I have more natural ability than pretending to be unconscious. My talent for first aid was less great but a surprising amount came flooding back when the instructor removed the resuscitation doll from its bag last week.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and “Resusci Anne” are the bits that I remembered most. Although it was good to see her again, she is no longer the fresh-faced beauty that I remember from my youth. Age has got to her just like it has to the rest of us. The first thing I noticed was a bit of facial sun-fading. The second thing was that she no longer has any arms or legs.

If that wasn’t unsettling enough, this dismembered torso now sports a hairdo like Jimmy Saville and wears sportswear. There was palpable discomfort around the classmates as we contemplated getting jiggy with Jimmy with spectators. Such squeamishness must be overcome. The reality is that if I am ever required to use first aid it is much more likely to be when a hairy, 19 stone, long-distance lorry driver collapses in our yard than if the Farmers Weekly Sexiest Farmer” faints in front of me at the FW Awards.

Yet now that my training is up to date, it’s hard now to see why I made such a fuss about having to do it in the first place. It was neither difficult nor time-consuming. I can’t recommend the course highly enough to other farmers: spending a few hours discussing potential accidents makes you alert to the potential dangers that we encounter in our day-to-day work.

The HSE is hoping to reduce the number of these accidents with its recently-launched campaign, Make The Promise. This may seem obvious and patronising when you are busy and hard-pressed but there are still thousands of needless accidents on farms every year. Some farmers still hold that daft prejudice that health and safety is only for wimps. I often meet farmers who think that danger only exists in the mind, nasty dogs go for frightened people, only the nervous fall off ladders and agrochemicals just harm people with weak stomachs. They see injuring themselves as their principal human right. They think that a first aid box should contain a hacksaw and six miniature bottles of Glenfiddich.

This mindset needs to be challenged. Instead of glamorising agricultural injuries with headlines like “Brave farmer walks 10 miles to hospital carrying his leg” the media should report “Yet another wally get’s caught in his baler.” The public and the government are beginning to appreciate farmers once more, we must prize ourselves with equal value. Let’s allow a bit of time in 2010 to minimise the risks that we face. How’s about that then?

Now then, now then, You’re going to have to excuse me, one of the Farmer Focus writers is feeling a bit queasy so I’ve just got to pop ahead on the site and sort him out.