Farm accident survivor urges discussion on ‘near-misses’

The survivor of a farm accident has urged farmers to speak out about their near-misses to increase awareness about the dangers that exist on their land.

Peter Gohery, who has a 150ac tillage farm at Eyrecourt, Co. Galway, lost his leg in an accident with a PTO shaft at his farm in 2009.

Speaking at a farm safety day hosted by North Tipperary IFA in Nenagh mart, Goherty told AgriLand: “It was a sunny day and, after weaning the weanlings that evening, myself and my son decided to pull out the diet feeder. We hooked it up and ran it.

“When I turned on the PTO, I could hear a knock from inside the machine. The other thing I noticed was that the hydraulic pipes weren’t in the correct sequence,” he said.

“During that day, my knee had come out through the waterproof section of my overalls. I cut the waterproof leggings off and left a tail of about 4in to 6in.

“When I heard the knock from the diet feeder, I shut down the PTO to a slow idle, turning at about 150rpm to 200rpm.

As I walked around the back of the tractor, I decided to change the hydraulic pipes. When I went to move away, I noticed that I couldn’t feel the ground with my left leg. I looked down and saw that it had gone clean off me, below the knee.

“The PTO caught me and threw me on the ground on the other side.

“My 10-year-old son, who had been sitting on the tractor and facing forward, turned around and saw what had happened. He turned off the tractor and the PTO and ran to get his mother,” Gohery recalled.

“When I went to sit up, I noticed I had broken two bones in my left arm and had done severe damage to my right leg as well. The skin had been stripped right down to the bone on that leg.”

His wife, who is a nurse, arrived on the scene and tended to him, while their son gave directions to the paramedics.

“I was in hospital from October of that year. I got home for Christmas and then went to the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire, where I spent 16 weeks learning to walk again.”

Gohery was fortunate to have good neighbours and friends who ran the farm while he was in hospital. When he returned to work, he got out of sucklers as he wasn’t able to move quickly enough to keep up with them.

Fully covered?

Although he had worked in construction, employing 20 people at the height of the boom – and having trained them in safety – he was, he admitted, complacent when it came to his own protection.

“At the time of the accident, I was still owed a lot of money from the construction business and I was saving money on the farm. I wasn’t investing in the farm.

A new power shaft, with a cover, cost me €160 the following year. The prosthetic leg I’m now wearing is valued at €40,000.

While he thought he was well-covered with insurance for both his construction and farming work, he discovered after the accident that one of the policies specified that both legs had to be lost in order for a claim to be made.

While he was lucky to only have to do minimal adaptions at home, he has to drive an automated jeep and tractors.

“Some adaptions to machinery to allow farmers to drive can cost thousands of euro and this is not grant-aided for the self-employed,” Gohery said.

“I never thought it was going to happen to me. Yet at 540rpm, 9ft of rope will wrap around the power shaft in one second.

“I didn’t have a will made and, if I had died that evening, I would have left a mess behind.

“A lot of farmers don’t think they are going to die – they should make a will for peace of mind,” Gohery said.

Anyone who comes across a farm accident should prioritise their own safety, rather than rush in and possibly lose their own lives as well, Gohery said. He is a director of Embrace FARM, which supports families after farm accidents.

Gohery added: “While it is a natural reaction to want to rush in and help someone, your personal safety should be number one.”