Experience no barrier to farm accidents

Experience no barrier to farm accidents


It was a task Natimuk farmer Michael Sudholz had done 1000 times before, but that didn't stop a freak wind from causing a serious accident.

Natimuk farmer Michael Sudholz is back on his feet after a serious accident at harvest late last year.

Natimuk farmer Michael Sudholz is back on his feet after a serious accident at harvest late last year.

IT WAS a task Natimuk district farmer Michael Sudholz has performed thousands of times.

The wind had got up one day last harvest, causing the Sudholz family to decide to pull up stumps on harvesting for a while, so naturally Mr Sudholz went around the paddock to make sure the field bin lids were closed.

There wasn't much grain in the last bin, nor was there much rain forecast, but Mr Sudholz thought it was better to be safe than sorry.

He climbed the ladder to conduct the routine task of flipping the lid shut.

He remembers getting the lid down, but then things went terribly pear-shaped.

"A gust of wind must have got underneath the lid with enough force to push it back hard.

"I remember getting a whop on the face from the lid and thinking 'that hurt', the next thing I know I am falling through air and there's that terrible moment mid-air where you haven't yet crashed but you know it is not going to be good."

Mr Sudholz landed upright after falling from a significant height, sustaining serious injuries, including a broken pelvis from the force of the landing being pushed through his legs, but he said he was lucky.

"It could have been so much worse, it wouldn't have taken much at all for me to have broken my neck."

A second stroke of fortune was that his mobile phone was within reach.

"It was also lucky I'd been putting my phone in a pocket with a button on it as I was sick of it falling out when I was doing jobs, the ute was not that far away but I was in a lot of pain and I'm not sure how I would have crawled my way across to raise the alarm."

Mr Sudholz's son Kane was soon on the scene and calling for help and Mr Sudholz was quickly taken to hospital by ambulance.

From there it was a case of a lengthy enforced lay-up.

"I was confined to complete bed rest for six weeks over what is our busiest time of year, given the accident happened just at the start of harvest.

"There wasn't a program on TV I hadn't watched, it goes to show just how much for granted you take your health."

Mr Sudholz said the take home message for the farming sector from his accident was that you could never afford to be complacent on safety.

"I've been on the farm for nearly 40 years, but this still happened to me, we perhaps don't take the risks around us as seriously as we should, especially now that so much of the work is mechanised - you still have to ensure the risk of an accident is as low as possible."

To that end, Mr Sudholz said he had made immediate modifications to his field bins to allow them to be closed from the ground where possible.

Michael Sudholz believes phones are an important part of farm safety these days, especially with so much work conducted solo.

Michael Sudholz believes phones are an important part of farm safety these days, especially with so much work conducted solo.

"After the accident when I was back on my feet I marched in to the field bin modification stand at the Wimmera Machinery Field Days in March and got ground opening lids fitted to all the bins I could.

"We've got a reasonable number of field bins so it was not an insignificant cost, but when you factor it against being out of action over harvest it really is not much at all, not to mention the impact on your quality of life an accident like mine can have."

Mr Sudholz said with a number of workers on the farm, some of them coming on just over busy periods such as sowing and harvest, there would be an emphasis on safe working practices.

"It's bad enough injuring yourself, but you'd hate it to happen to one of your workers."

He said he believed one of the most important steps to preserving farm safety was also one of the simplest.

"We may moan about them going off every minute of the day, but without my phone I would have been in a lot of strife on the day of my accident.

"The nature of agriculture is that we are often working alone and it could be some time before someone notices something is wrong, so having a phone with you all the time can help you raise the alarm."

Mr Sudholz said he hoped other farmers would take heed of the lessons of his accident.

"You might think there is no way something like falling off a field bin could happen to you, but farming has a lot of risks and you need to be prepared."

The story Experience no barrier to farm accidents first appeared on Farm Online.


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