Unguarded PTO shaft ends sharemilker’s long career
12 June 2006
A sharemilker at Rotomanu on the West Coast was lucky to survive an accident that happened when he was spreading fertiliser using a sower powered by a tractor. A passerby discovered Barry Matheson prone in a paddock wearing only a sock and a gumboot.
Department of Labour inspectors Terry Williams and Philip McVicar found some remainders of Barry’s clothes at the October 2004 accident scene and these provided vital clues to establishing what occurred.
The power take off (PTO) shaft on the tractor was not covered. As Barry leaned over the unguarded shaft, the tail of his jersey caught in the PTO mechanism. He spun around violently until his clothing tore under the immense pressure and was flung out onto the field.
The legal responsibility for safety on the farm lay with the owner of the property. However, Terry Williams discovered that the farm owner had died two years before and the estate was not yet settled. The estate trustees were not actively involved in running the farm and left routine decisions to Barry Matheson.
Barry sustained two broken legs, broken ribs and a broken shoulder in the accident and was in hospital for four months. He admitted to Terry Williams to using machinery in an unsafe state for many years. A guard for the PTO would have cost just $50 to $100.
The investigation concluded that the Department would not prosecute the trustees or Barry. The trustees would have expected to be alerted to any maintenance issues, and Barry had suffered the consequences of using the unguarded machinery. His injuries were enough to force him out of sharemilking. The Department’s report focused on education to prevent similar accidents occurring.
“He was extremely lucky to have survived. It just goes to show how easily you can get caught up in those things…unguarded machinery is extremely dangerous,” Terry Williams said.
Barry’s remarkable tale of survival features on tonight’s episode of Special Investigators on TV ONE.
To the journalist: please note that health and safety services formerly referred to as Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) should now be referred to as the Department of Labour.