• As the hay-making season gets underway a Lancashire farmer who was left paralysed by a falling bale is telling his story as a warning to others.

    21-year-old Robert Field was stacking silage bales on a neighbour’s farm in Burnley with a colleague back in 2007 when the bale grab on the telehandler cracked as it struggled to put in place the topmost bale on a stack.
    Robert Field

    Robert Field

    Robert was looking at the machine, driven by his colleague, when he was hit by a one-ton bale from six metres high. It broke his back, fractured his jaw and severed a main artery in his leg. Doctors expected him to die.

    Robert survived but surgeons were forced to amputate his leg above the knee and he was left permanently paralysed from the waist down.

    As well as the emotional cost, there has been a big financial impact. Robert has been able to work again, but he and his mother have had to employ extra staff to make up their farm’s workforce and it has cost several thousand to adapt machinery and equipment.

    Robert, whose story is now available to watch on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website, said:

    “I’m very cautious now in everything I do. I didn’t think a bale would fall on me like it did. People who work on farms should make a promise to themselves and their families to come home safe at the end of the day. I very nearly didn’t.”

    Added Graeme Walker, HSE’s head of food and agriculture:

    “11 workers have died in baling incidents since 2007 - Robert was one of the lucky ones.

    “Baling doesn’t have to be a dangerous activity. With the right training and proper planning Robert and his family needn’t have gone through the emotional trauma they did. They also wouldn’t have had to pay for additional support and adaptations.

    “Robert is an inspiration, but his story should also serve as a stark warning to others. New HSE guidance on safe baling is now available and I urge farm workers to get familiar with it.”

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