23 Jul Farm Safety Week Pt 3 | John Wilson – ‘I lost my finger in the blink of an eye’
John Wilson has lived nearly half his life without his left ring finger after a freak accident on the back of a cattle truck in 1983.
He said the farming community had come a long way since he was a ‘young buck when it was all very gung-ho and if you got hurt, you got hurt’.
Now retired, John reflected on the loss of his finger to raise awareness of National Farm Safety week (July 18-23).
“Like anything, accidents can still happen but as a community our farmers have improved out of sight with their farm safety over the last twenty years I think,” he said.
“There’s been a big focus on keeping kids safe on farms, on not working alone, on quad bike and tractor rollbars and things like that.
“I think the fact that most farms employ workers now has made farmers more conscious of any potential dangers on their farms as well. Instead of just having to look after themselves, they need to keep their employees safe and I think that has helped enormously.
“I come from a time with no rollbars, chain guards, seatbelts, helmets…it was a different time and in terms of farm safety we could be proud of what we’ve done as well as raising awareness to remain vigilant on the land.”
John was moving an injured cow from one truck to another when a series of unlikely events collaborated in his finger being ripped from his hand.
“We had the two trucks backed up to each other and I climbed up the side of one to get ready to open the gate and move the beast,” he said.
“The truck I was on the side of didn’t have a handbrake on and was in gear. The guy backing the other one up to mine just went back too far and pushed my truck a bit and being a diesel it fired up…it roll started and headed off.
“I let go of one hand to hang out a bit and look at the mirror – only to see nobody driving it, so I thought I better stop it. So I jumped and ‘bang’ went the finger.
“I landed on my feet and had a finger that was hanging on with a single tendon like a piece of string, so I put my finger in my hand and ran after the truck, jumped in and stopped it.
“My wedding ring had caught on the top of the mesh on the cattle truck – maybe on a bit of weld or something like that, and my weight just pulled it clean off.”
John said he was raced up to the hospital, received some sedation and was referred to a plastic surgeon in Geelong to see if the finger could be saved.
“I knew it would have to come off and that was confirmed when I got to Geelong.”