William Sayers’ life changed forever on Easter Monday in 1990 while helping out on the family farm.
He lost an arm, and almost his life, when he was in an accident involving an unguarded PTO shaft.
The Tyrone native was twelve-years-old at the time and was spreading slurry with Jonathan - his sixteen-year-old friend.
Before undertaking the task, his father highlighted the dangers associated with spreading slurry. “Everything was going to plan; my father told me the dos and the don’ts earlier that day.” He explained in a video produced by HSENI.
“We spread slurry all day and at 7:45 pm, I heard mother shouting that tea was ready.My father said ‘that will do you for today – you have done enough’,”
William told his father “that one more load would finish the field” to which he responded, “okay – one more load only.”
“My mother called me back and said ‘William, put on that coat’. I went back, put on the coat but didn’t bother zipping it up because I knew I wouldn’t be long out.”
William felt the tanker was slow at lifting slurry out of the tank; he adjusted the regulator at the top of the vacuum pump at the front of the tanker.
The sign advised operators to set the oil dropper on the vacuum pump to one drop every four seconds.
He altered the regulator and became caught in the PTO shaft shortly afterwards. “I was flung instantly onto the ground; I realised my life is possibly over.”
“I got onto my feet and I remember looking down with no clothes on me, all bar a pair of underwear and socks,” William recalled.
“I couldn’t see out of my right eye; there was huge swelling on the whole side of my face because of the impact on the ground with the PTO shaft.”
“My brain was telling me that I have two arms but when I looked to the right, there was an arm lying beside me – and this was my arm.”
He walked over to the house and Jane – his sister – raised the alarm.
“Five minutes previously I left the house with two arms and I came in five minutes later with only one arm.”
He underwent surgery at Ulster Hospital later that night; attempts were made to sew back his arm, but despite their best efforts, this was not possible.
He remained in hospital and returned to the farm just over two weeks later.
William said that if the PTO shaft was properly guarded, there was “absolutely no chance” of him getting caught in it.
“I think the accident was my caused by my coat not being zipped up.” He said as he revealed that a PTO shaft can take in seventeen feet of material in one second.
Now a married man with children, he advises his fellow farmers to take time before undertaking tasks.
Safety messages from HSENI:
- A properly guarded PTO shaft prevents life-changing injuries and death;
- Keep all PTO guards in place on tractor and equipment;
- A broken, damaged or badly fitted PTO guard can be just as dangerous as no guard at all.
Image source: HSENI