Skegness

Dairy farmer who lost fingers in bottling machine issues workplace safety warning

A Skegness dairy farmer has spoken out about safety in the workplace after losing two fingers in a bottling machine.

Helen Banham, a dairy farmer from Rich Pastures Farm, where she and her husband David bottled and sold their milk, lost two of her fingers in a machine four years ago.

Very early on the morning of December 12, 2012, Helen was going about her daily routine when a bottle dropped through the machine.

Instinctively, and without thinking or turning off the bottling line she reached into the machine to grab it.

The results of her actions were devastating as Helen’s right hand was trapped in the machine; her thumb was severed and a spike penetrated the palm of her hand.

She pulled her hand free and in doing so, ripped her hand open, severely and irrevocably damaging the tendons of her third finger.

Helen is now warning people how taking risks at work that you make have taken “a million times before” can change your life and your business forever.

She said: “It was our wake-up call.

“I know I was on auto-pilot, but we were both working full-on, just trying to stay ahead of the game, doing more and more ourselves and pushing ourselves to the limit.”

Helen’s husband and business partner David added:

“We did know that the machine needed to have some guards added; that was the stupid thing about it.

“The trouble with farming is that you’re always a jack of all trades and constantly juggling jobs and we wanted so much for the milk processing part of the business to work, so perhaps we didn’t have our eye on the safety side of things as we should have done.”

This comes as Farm Safety Week begins in the county.

In recent years, work-related fatalities in the UK and Ireland’s farming industries have been disproportionate compared to the number of deaths in other industries.

Guy Smith, vice-president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) and chair of England’s Farm Safety Partnership said:

“Machinery and transport continue to be the main causes of life changing and life ending injuries on farms.

“Farm Safety Week is in its fifth year of existence, farm safety training is improving across the country and regional initiatives like Devon Young Farmers Club’s recent ‘Growing Safer Farmers’ all demonstrate that agriculture is an industry who agree that enough is enough and want to make a change.”