Enderby’s Devon Smith (with her horse

Enderby’s Devon Smith (with her horse

Injured farm worker urges safety

Devon Smith didn’t think she would ever be injured on her family’s Enderby hobby farm

  • Mar. 20, 2015 1:00 p.m.

Devon Smith didn’t think she would ever be injured on her family’s Enderby hobby farm.

But, on her 21st birthday, she found herself in Kelowna General Hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU).

Just a few weeks earlier, she and her father, Allan Smith, decided to tackle fixing a fence in the cow pasture, putting in new posts. It was a routine job that had been on their to-do list for months.

“I wasn’t even thinking anything could go wrong,” said Devon. “We had completed putting in six or seven posts already and it wasn’t a big deal. I had said to my dad, ‘I’m going to go out and ride my horse after.’ Well, that never happened.”

Devon doesn’t remember the incident, but either her loosely-fitted clothing or long hair, or both, became entangled in the post hole auger, a drilling device that usually includes a rotating screw blade. In this instance, the auger was being powered by the tractor’s power take off (PTO).

Devon’s father immediately shut down the auger and called for an ambulance. She was rushed to Vernon Jubilee Hospital, then Kelowna General Hospital where she spent one week on life support for life-threatening injuries: 13 broken or fractured bones, a separated right lung and a stroke to the left side of her body after a carotid artery in her neck collapsed.

She spent five-and-a-half weeks in hospital.

To help employers and workers prevent future injuries, WorkSafeBC is launching a tractor and equipment safety initiative, which includes a new web page with several free online resources.

Visitors to the site can download frequently asked questions of working safely with tractors and an equipment and machine safety checklist in English, French, Punjabi and Spanish. There’s also a video on how to prevent tractor rollovers.

Visit the WorkSafeBC Tractor and Equipment Safety Initiative for more information: http://www2.worksafebc.com/Portals/Agriculture/WCBInitiatives.asp

WorkSafeBC’s Tractor and Equipment Safety Initiative coincides with Canadian Agricultural Safety Week (CASW), which runs to Saturday.

Today, Devon continues physiotherapy and respiratory treatments weekly in Vernon. She has resumed many of her old activities having just finished a two-year term as the BC 4-H Ambassador, but her perspective on farm equipment safety has changed.

In retrospect, she says she was standing too close to the auger, needed to wear fitted clothing and tie her hair back.

“You have to treat everything like you’re doing it for the first time,” said Devon. “When you’re doing stuff that’s so routine, you don’t think about it as hard as if you were doing it for the first time.”

Since 2009, there have been 145 equipment and machinery-related serious injuries on B.C. farms and ranches – 11 of them fatal.