Comedian Al Murray has described his own dramatic experience in rescuing an 18-year-old farmworker as part of this year’s fifth annual Farm Safety Week, which begins on Monday (24 July).
His story comes on the day the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is set to announce a total of 30 fatalities in agriculture during 2016-17, which means farming still kills more people than any other industry in Great Britain.
Over half the deaths were in farmers aged over 65.
Renowned for his role as The Pub Landlord, Mr Murray has revealed his role in saving Chris Brown after the farmworker got his right arm trapped in a baler on a farm in Walsham-le-Willows, near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.
Agreeing to tell his story as part of Farm Safety Week, Mr Murray said he wanted to highlight that farming was the most dangerous occupation in the UK and more people needed to be talking about the issue.
Cries for help
Mr Murray was just 12 and had been holidaying on his cousin’s farm during harvest.
As he was cycling back to the farmhouse, he heard cries for help coming from near one of the many machines in the field.
Approaching the cries, he spied a young farmworker, trapped in a baler, in pain and losing a lot of blood.
At first, Mr Murray tried to pull the trapped man out of the machine by his boots, but realising it wouldn’t work, he was talked through the shutdown procedure for the machine by the stricken Mr Brown.
Mr Murray managed to stop the machine, raise the alarm, fetch his father, who then dismantled the machine to dislodge the trapped arm, tourniquet the injury before the ambulance arrived to take Mr Brown to hospital.
He did not lose his arm, but Mr Brown admitted he hadn’t followed the Safe Stop procedure when working with machinery.
“I knew I was breaking every safety rule by not turning off the machine, but, at 18 years of age, I was more concerned about getting my hair stuck in the baler than my arm.”
Rick Brunt, HSE head of agriculture, waste and recycling, said farming’s record needed to improve.
“Agriculture is a critical part of our economy. But every year we have to report that agriculture has the poorest safety record of any occupation in the UK.
“This is made even more tragic by the fact the deaths and injuries are avoidable. The precautions to prevent people being killed and maimed on farms are well known and can easily be applied.”
Stephanie Berkeley, from the Farm Safety Foundation – the charity behind Farm Safety Week – said too many farmers put farm safety as a last priority.
“Unlike other occupations, farmers don’t normally retire at 65 and often work well into their 80s. Simple factors such as habit, haste, fatigue and improperly maintained machinery contribute to this perfect storm.
“But this Farm Safety Week, we hope that by hearing the stories of other farmers and extraordinary people who have had personal experience of farm accidents, we can get farmers of all ages to realise this week, and every week, farm safety is a lifestyle, not a slogan.”