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This is a question Down on the Farm

Have you ever been chased from a field by a shotgun-wielding maniac? Ever removed city arseholes from your field whilst innocently carrying a shotgun? Tell us your farm stories.

(, Thu 24 May 2012, 13:19)
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Apaches is probably true.
The fatality rate on farms is something like 8 deaths per 100,000 people per year - sounds low, but that's about one a week. By comparison, in the building trade it's more like one every two weeks and that is considered unacceptably high.

The problem is that there are so many things on farms that will just not give you a second chance. Most of the accidents are caused by people getting squashed under things. Those big round silage bales wrapped in black plastic weigh about a tonne - it's a big ball of wet grass. Even straw bales will squish you, and a small stack of bales is easily high enough for you to seriously injure yourself if you fall off.

Tractors, though, are all kinds of dangerous. Very old ones didn't have roll-over protection, so if it turned over you'd be squished. One of the key safety features of the Ferguson System of hydraulics was that if you are ploughing and the plough gets stuck under a rock the tension in the top link will pull one side of the height control back and lift the plough out. Prior to the Ferguson three-point link system, ploughs were just towed behind like horse-drawn ploughs, and if they got stuck the tractor would keep going forwards with the plough chain holding it back until it wheelied up and fell over backwards, squishing you. Starting to see a theme here?

Of course, farms use a lot of powered implements, driven off the tractor. Many old designs have fallen out of favour or in some cases been banned outright. Here's a potato spinner where a metre-wide wheel with forks on it spins at about 50rpm, lifting potatoes from the ground along with any potato-sized stones which get flung a long way. Lethal. Forage harvesters used to be used for cutting long grass to make silage - they consist of a sort of spinning metal drum with hinged spoons about the size of the palm of your hand, under a metal cover with the spout coming out the top. They are closely related to the flail mowers you see used for cutting hedges and verges along the road. This will also throw stones quite some distance, and quite a lot of people have been killed by flying stones.

It's worth taking a moment to see how these implements are powered. Tractors have an extra bit in the gearbox called the Power Take-Off (PTO) which lets you couple a shaft up to the back and drive it from either the engine or the rear wheels, depending on if you want a constant speed or a speed that follows the tractor's speed. This is coupled to the implement via the PTO shaft. For the technically-minded, that's like a little short car propshaft. For the non-technically-minded, that's a spinning metal tube with jaggy bits sticking out at the ends. It wasn't until the late 1980s that it became mandatory to fit PTO shaft guards, which consist of a metal hood over each coupling and a free-spinning plastic sleeve over the shaft itself that you secure with a short chain so it doesn't spin with the shaft. The shaft spins at 540rpm and if anything gets caught it *will not stop*.

Prior to fitting shaft guards the most common accident was people getting their sleeve or trouser leg caught in the shaft and pulled in. This typically results in their arm or leg being wound tightly around the shaft. If it didn't get torn off in the accident, it would need to be amputated since there's no way you're putting that bone back together. Stick a bundle of dry spaghetti up a garden hose and wrap it around a broom handle if you want to try modelling the effects.

Drum mowers are like rotary lawnmowers with a big sort of disc thing underneath with blades sticking out. Again, flying rocks, spinning shafts and the sheer weight of the thing when you try to hook it up means that it's constantly trying to kill you, even when it's just sitting there.

The best have to be Roterras though. A Roterra is a kind of giant rotovator driven off the PTO shaft with big sharp spinning blades that chop up clods of soil into fine tilth. To prevent damage if they hit a rock, they have a slipper clutch that stops the blades if they jam. So, what happens is this - the blade hits a rock, the clutch slips with a horrible squeal, the tractor driver puts the PTO shaft out of gear (hopefully) but there's still torque on it because the shaft has "wound up" a little. Either that, or they forget to put it out of gear and leave it engaged with the clutch slipping.

Then they go to kick the stone out from under the blade...
(, Mon 28 May 2012, 14:36, 21 replies)
Some interesting details there of vicious looking machines. I guess all farm machines, one way or another, are some of the most dangerous around as they have to be exposed to get into the mud. Your description of the spaghetti/hosepipe made me wince :(
(, Mon 28 May 2012, 15:11, closed)
Well written...*clicks*

And our farmers go through all that just to be shafted by the supermarket price wars?

*shakes fist*
(, Mon 28 May 2012, 15:21, closed)
as a web developer my chances of being killed by giant whirring blades are minimal, thank fuck
(, Mon 28 May 2012, 15:23, closed)
I've got a petrol lawnmower you can borrow.

(, Mon 28 May 2012, 18:24, closed)
Yep, quite a few farmers around here with bits missing. Quite a few deaths too.

(, Mon 28 May 2012, 15:24, closed)
Interesting article
This is the true reason for the decline in farming. Everyone is dead.
I wonder what the health and safety conditions are like for this stuff in many developing countries.
(, Mon 28 May 2012, 15:27, closed)
Not great, I suspect
I remember being told a story years ago by my boss of when he'd dealt with a farm in Iran. It was very gruesome and involved a man with his arm up to the shoulder in some sort of whirring death machine and shouting "My arm's in the machine, don't turn it on!".

The other guy only heard the last three words, and did as he was told. My boss arrived on the scene a couple of minutes later and said he never heard screams like that before or since O_o
(, Mon 28 May 2012, 15:32, closed)
A fascinating read
and not one I'd have expected to see here. Help yourself to a click, that man.
(, Mon 28 May 2012, 15:27, closed)
you know quite a lot about tractors and stuff

(, Mon 28 May 2012, 16:18, closed)
I grew up on a farm
I still have all my limbs and I'm not dead, although I have some interesting scars
(, Mon 28 May 2012, 16:28, closed)
I read a book about it once
Quite a good read - IIRC

Have a click for erudition.

(, Mon 28 May 2012, 17:45, closed)
I have ( or rather had) a load of farmers in my family
My uncle died when his clothes were pulled into a threshing machine. He probably suffocated. My other uncle had his arm pulled off as described above by a fast twisting thing at the back of a tractor. A third uncle shot himself in the foot tripping while carrying a loaded shotgun - silly man. One cousin fell off a haystack and broke his back, luckily nothing a couple of metal pins couldn't fix. Another cousin fell off a trailer and got dragged along a gravel path for a while. He has impressive scarring. My granddad got charged by a bull. It broke his leg and dislocated a shoulder. He stcuk cow shit in its eyes to confuse it then crawled about 500yds back to the farmhouse. I have no more farmers on that side of the family.
(, Mon 28 May 2012, 17:53, closed)
I have loads of farmers in my family
and the worst that's happened is that one lost a finger.

I suspect the problem isn't the choice of occupation but rather the fact that your family are an evolutionary dead end that needed culling.
(, Mon 28 May 2012, 18:29, closed)
this is probably true.
(, Mon 28 May 2012, 19:32, closed)
Sounds rather 'Downs on the farm' to me.

(, Mon 28 May 2012, 19:07, closed)

Well the PTO shaft is about 2-3" diameter and spinning at 540rpm, divide by 60 and you get 9rps. So if your arm is kind of normal human size it would wrap around three or four times. Call it four and a half for ease of counting, and it's all happened in half a second.

I never even mentioned shotguns but most people are *reasonably* careful with them here. A lot of farms are getting chippers or shredders, and fallen stock incinerators. I expect we'll see a lot of astoundingly gruesome accidents from those.
(, Mon 28 May 2012, 21:50, closed)
That said: "couple a shaft up to the back" - snigger.
(, Mon 28 May 2012, 20:07, closed)
Roterra terror
I heard a tale of someone backing a roterra over a ditch so he could observe it spinning and locate the weird noise......... by getting underneath it.
(, Tue 29 May 2012, 0:04, closed)
Really interesting post.
If you work in a controlled environment, like the average construction site, the safety measures are eveywhere. and there is always a safety office to pull you up if you start to do something in an unsafe manner

I guess the average farm is an uncontrolled safety environment, with dangerous situations and machinery everywhere (and animals), so the death rates are inevitably higher...which is fucked.
(, Tue 29 May 2012, 3:28, closed)
Excellent read first thing in the morning
Have an HSA approved click.
(, Tue 29 May 2012, 7:16, closed)
And then there's the export models....
When I was delivering to the Massey Ferguson plant in the 90s you could tell which models were going to the 3rd world.

Steel seat? Check.

No fan guard? Check.

No rollover protection whatever? Check.
(, Tue 29 May 2012, 7:34, closed)

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