A Fenland farmer who nearly lost his arm in a machinery accident is helping to raise safety awareness in the region’s agricultural industry.
George Munns, of L and AE Munns and Son of Westmoor Farm, in Chatteris, said it only took seconds for his arm to become trapped in a potato harvester as he tried to make a temporary repair to the machine’s rollers.
“The harvester has rollers which clean mud off the potatoes, the rollers are covered in rubber but if you get a stone in between them then that can strip the rubber off and leave a gap for the potatoes to drop through - meaning you lose a large amount of crop.
“You can make a temporary repair by wrapping string round the rollers and that is what I was doing. I had already done one and was working on the other when there was a knot in the string. The next thing I knew my hand was being pulled very quickly towards the rollers and was trapped between them with the rollers moving up my arm. The chap driving the tractor reacted fast when I told him to turn the machine off - just a second or two - a few more seconds and the rollers would have been up to my shoulder and would have ripped my arm off,” explained George, whose farm is renowned for its rapeseed oil.
He was trapped in the machinery for over two hours while emergency services battled to free his arm.
“I was really lucky a machinery engineer managed to dismantle the machine enough to get my arm out - at one point it looked like they were going to cut my arm off to get me out,” said George.
The 2009 incident left him hospitalised in Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge for two weeks, and needing extensive physiotherapy for two years. He was unable to work on the farm for six months.
Now George has been asked by the Health and Safety Executive to speak about the accident to raise safety awareness on farms in the light of latest figures which show agriculture is the most dangerous industry for accidents.
Figures published in the Health and Safety Executive’s report ‘Fatal injuries in agriculture, forestry and fishing in Great Britain 2016/17’ show 30 people were killed as a result of farming and other agriculture-related activities during the year - three of them in the Eastern region.
Agriculture has the highest rate of fatal injury of all the main industry sectors, around 18 times higher than all other industries.
George said: “I never gave what I was doing a second thought. I was holding a piece of string which was being wound round the rollers with the machine running. I thought if anything untoward happened I could just let go of the string, but everything happened so fast, by the time I realised what was happening it was too late.
“I was lucky, there were so many people who helped save my arm. I would urge all farm workers to think carefully about safety and don’t take risks.”