Farm Horizons, September 1999

What to do if a farm accident occurs

While most farm residents are aware of the potential hazards on farms, they may not know what actions to take if they are the first to arrive at the scene of a farm accident.

Farm accidents are often aggravated by other circumstances including a lapse in time between the accident and discovery by another person; accident sites that may delay emergency personnel; distances those seeking help may have to travel, sometimes on foot, for medical assistance; and an untrained person's thinking and decision-making ability hindered by the shock of the situation.

Because of these difficulties, a basic understanding of rescue procedures and first aid methods is extremely important for farm families and workers. The ability to make swift decisions and respond properly could be the difference between the victim recovering from an accident or suffering a permanent disability, or even death.

Here are some general recommendations and procedures to follow for the person arriving first on the scene.

· Assess the situation. Remain calm when responding to any emergency situation. Size up the situation from a position that does not put you at risk of injury. Determine the following:

­ Is the person alive?

­ Is he coherent?

­ Is he having breathing difficulties?

­ Is the victim trapped in or under the piece of equipment, or in danger of further harm?

­ Is the equipment still turned on?

­ Is the equipment leaking potentially hazardous fluids, such as gasoline?

­ Will your life be endangered by approaching the victim?

· Breathing. Determine whether to immediately go for help or begin rendering aid depending on the type of accident, the seriousness of the injury and your ability to properly administer first aid and/or cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

If you decide to provide aid first, respiration should be your immediate concern. Approach victims from the direction in which they are looking to prevent them from risking further injuries by moving to watch you. If the victim is unconscious, determine if he is breathing and check for pulse.

If the victim is not breathing and there is absolutely no chance of neck or spinal injury, slightly tilt the head back to open the airway. Pinch the nose closed and give two slow breaths into the mouth. Check again for a heartbeat or pulse. If you cannot detect any, begin CPR.

· Bleeding. Farm accidents often involve lacerations or partial or complete amputations. To control bleeding, put direct pressure on the wound and elevate it above the heart. If this fails, use the extremity pressure points (inside of the upper arm midway between the elbow and shoulder, or the upper inside of the leg in the groin area), to stop bleeding by pressing the artery tightly against the bone above the wound.

For severely bleeding extremity wounds, use a belt or piece of clothing to make a wide tourniquet. Apply it snugly two to four inches above the injury. Use a thick stick or long slender wrench (screwdriver, ratchet handle) as a twister to tighten the tourniquet.

Apply a tourniquet only as a last resort when bleeding can't be controlled by any other method. Once applied, it must stay snugly fastened until the victim arrives at the hospital. Deciding to use a tourniquet is an extremely serious decision, since it could mean sacrificing an arm or leg to save the victim's life.

If an appendage has been removed, try to locate the amputated tissue for possible reattachment at the hospital. Follow these steps to properly preserve amputated tissue.

­ Do not clean the tissue.

­ Wrap the appendage in a sterile dressing or towel. Secure it with adhesive tape.

­ Place the wrapped appendage in a clean plastic bag and label it with the person's name, the date and the time. Seal the bag.

­ Place the sealed package in a cooler on top of a closed bag of ice to transport to the hospital.

­ Don't allow an amputated part to be submerged in, or even come into contact with, ice or water.

­ Don't use dry ice to keep an amputated part cold.

· Summon EMS. After the situation is stabilized, seek help from trained Emergency Medical Services (EMS) professionals. Keep in mind that not all areas have access to 9-1-1 services. If you are alone and no telephone is available, find a roadway and flag down a motorist. Look for a vehicle with a CB antenna or cellular phone to summon help.

The most effective preparation for farm accidents is planning in advance whom to call and how to give easy-to-follow directions. While this may seem a simple task, experience shows that mileage estimates, landmarks, road and bridge conditions, and turning directions do not come readily when people are under stress.

· Ambulance and rescue squad locations. Know exactly where each person you call is located and give specific instructions to each. Know mileage figures. Check distances with an odometer since emergency personnel may only have mileage figures to guide them, the figures must be accurate. Describe turns by saying "left" or "right" rather than giving compass directions.

· Giving directions. Avoid citing landmarks when giving directions to the scene of a farm accident. Many rural roads now have road signs. Their use can greatly reduce confusion for all involved. If you must use landmarks, make sure they're established, easily visible and permanent.

· Return to the scene. If someone is trapped, it is crucial that you use the time before the emergency team arrives to assess the situation. If you attempt to remove an entangled person from a machine, you could cause additional blood loss or injuries. Trained personnel should conduct removal and rescue activities.

The main reason for attempting to remove a trapped victim is to avoid further injury from an immediate hazard such as a fire or explosion. Reduce this potential by turning off the ignition and any other electrical accessories such as lights; keeping fire sources, such as cigarettes and flares, well away from the area; and disconnecting the machinery's battery ground.

If it is necessary to move a victim that could have a spinal or back injury, keep the midline of the body straight and pull in a direction that is in a straight line with the victim's spine. Pull the victim's body from the feet or shoulders. Always pull using both feet, both shoulders or both arms pulled over the shoulders. You can also pull by the victim's clothing.

· Be prepared. Being the first on the scene of an accident is a traumatic experience for anyone, but it can be even more difficult when the victim is a friend, neighbor or family member, as is often the case with farm accidents.

The steps you take in the seconds following the discovery may mean the difference between life and death. Are you prepared? There are many first aid and CPR courses available through public service organizations that can help you prepare for emergency situations. For more information, contact your local Red Cross, fire department or local University Extension center.

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