Owen Gullery grabbed a last lungful of air as his tractor cab filled with effluent, before desperately trying to kick out a window as it sank.
That moment in an effluent pond is one Gullery says he'll never forget, and yet the kind of potentially fatal farm accident new figures from ACC show have reached a five-year-high.
In 2020, there were 22,796 farm-related injury claims accepted which came at a cost of $84 million. That is over 60 farmers getting injured every day.
ACC has spent more than $383 million on farm related injuries in the past five years, with the cost in 2020 the highest from this period.
READ MORE: Farmer injuries reach five-year high, hitting $84 million in ACC claims Farm quad bike accident broke Anita Kendrick’s back but not her will to survive Farmer with 50 years’ experience convicted after discharging up to 400,000 litres of effluent into environment
The night of the crash in 2011, Gullery was heading out to check a cow with calving problems.
"We had a three-pond effluent system and I knew she was in the paddock by the dry pond, but it was a 'pea soupy' kind of night with fog everywhere," he remembers.
"By the time I got to her it was 11 o'clock at night in October and I hadn't had a day off all year. I drove the tractor up the side of the pond where I thought she was, went over the bank and before I knew it, the cab was filling up with effluent. I'd driven into the wrong pond because I was so tired."
Gullery went into a panic as he fought for his life.
"I couldn't get anything to open. I ended up gasping for breath in the last couple hundred mils of cab space, managed to kick the back window open, grabbed the blade on the back of the tractor and hauled myself out. It was pretty scary. I ended up sitting on the bank balling my eyes out.
"I got home in shock and rang the boss to tell him his tractor was in the effluent pond, which was a strange conversation to have," he laughs. "And after that? Well, after that …" he pauses, "A lot of things changed."
That near-fatal accident has changed the Cambridge farmer's approach to life and his work. Now he's alerting other farmers to the dangers of fatigue and burnout.
An ACC-funded study for Farmstrong, a rural wellbeing programme, shows 58 percent of recently injured farmers linked their accident to stress associated with farm work. A quarter of them said it was a major factor.
Exhaustion, lack of sleep, the stresses of farming, being isolated from friends and family, and being unable to take a break all add to the risks that a farmer or farm worker will have an accident, the research shows.
Gullery contract milks 480 cows on a dairy farm near Cambridge. He's been in the industry 20 years and loves "the daily challenges of farming – good and bad".
"I'd only been contract milking a couple of years in the Manawatu. I was your typical 'I'm gonna take on the world' guy, working full-on hours. I wanted to make as much money as I could, bank every cent so I could buy a farm. That drove me to work 200 to 300 days in a row without a break.
"I only had one staff member when I actually needed two, but I was trying to save money. We had young kids too. I was busy on all fronts. But I thought, 'It's my time. I'm in my prime. I'll go as hard as I can'. I was working from 4 in the morning til 8 at night most days."
That combination almost proved fatal.
Virginia Burton-Konia ACC's Head of Workplace Safety says many farm injuries are preventable.
"Farmers spend their lives growing our food and milk and helping our economy, but they’re not great at looking after themselves.
Following his crash, Gullery employed part-time help. He took his first break of the year and scheduled two afternoons off a week. The family also reset their life goals and direction.
"We changed from being prepared to go anywhere and do anything just to own a farm to concentrating on being a stable, secure, happy family, no matter what it meant in terms of farm ownership," he says.
"I don't want to sound dramatic, but that's what happens when you see your life flash before your eyes."
"I could've easily not gone home that night and I never want anything like that to happen again. While farm ownership and herd ownership are great goals to have, they were no longer my priority. My priority was being there for my family and staying fit and health and a good head space."
These days, Gullery plays tennis and cycles to keep fit and coaches his kids' rugby. He also meets up with a group of other rural guys once a week to 'solve the world's problems over a beer'.
Gullery wants to share his story to help other farmers avoid injury.
"In the dairy industry we often talk about cows and grass, but I reckon there's a whole area that's largely untapped – people's ability to cope physically and mentally. I think if people were in a better space, staff turnover wouldn't be as high and properties would do better. I've learnt that spending time off farm and remaining fit and healthy are actually very good for the business.
"That's why Farmstrong's invaluable, it makes it easier to discuss these things sensibly and maturely. The future of farming cannot be a farm owner going, 'harden up and do the bloody job'. It has to be 'how can we improve as a team?' Sure, rain and fertilizer make farms tick, but fundamentally farming relies on people."
ACC Farmstrong and will put $3.5 million into the Farmstrong programme over the next five years.
- Farmers, tourists, and cattle threaten to wipe out some of the world’s last hunter-gatherers
- Waste Not, Pollute Not
- As sea levels rise, Bangladeshi islanders must decide between keeping the water out—or letting it in
- Nine Cautionary Tales
- The Future of Farming, Part 1: Controlling the Environment
- In the American Southwest, the Energy Problem Is Water
- The Latest: Israeli snipers, tanks deploy along Gaza border
- The 50 Best New Board Games
- What if a nuke goes off in Washington, D.C.? Simulations of artificial societies help planners cope with the unthinkable
- 600 earthquakes shake Big Island of Hawaii in 4 days, fear of volcanic eruption increases
- New Hope in the Minefields
- ‘Vulture safe zones’ aim to rescue a vital but unloved scavenger
- How Nicaraguan Villagers Built Their Own Electric Grid
- 110 Predictions For the Next 110 Years
- Wireless Technology Could Soon Help Farms
- ‘Baby Driver’ review
- Meet the Amateur Scientist Who Discovered Climate Change
- Ride shotgun in the high-tech cop cruiser you don’t want in your rearview mirror
- Iconic wild animals in Australia from baby kangaroos to Koalas are struggling to adapt to a crippling drought, warn ecologists
- The invention of Essex: how a county became a caricature
Drowning in effluent - how a tired farmer was nearly a dead farmer have 1242 words, post on www.stuff.co.nz at July 31, 2021. This is cached page on Europe Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.