FARM MACHINERY EXTRICATION
Hydraulic rescue tools, sufficiently effective for motor vehicle accidents, may prove totally ineffective for a farm machinery accident.
I he corn picking rollers on the combine were jammed. The farmer went to kick the blades free, without shutting off the machine’s engine and without disengaging the picking attachment to stop the rollers. He had done it this way dozens of times.
This time, however, it was different.
Standing on the left side of the metal hood that covered the combine’s auger shaft, it was reasoned that the farmer’s pants legs became entangled in the rollers and auger assembly. Within seconds, the rotating action of the auger shaft and the corn picking rollers pulled the farmer into the front of the combine, face up and feet first. The victim’s feet and legs became twisted and tangled about the large auger shaft and his chest was pinned by the machine.
The incident was reported to the Genesee County Fire Control by a neighbor, and the Bergen, N.Y., Fire Department and Ambulance Corp.’s pumper, rescue vehicle and ambulance were dispatched to the scene at approximately 5:50 p.m.
The first arriving units were directed into the corn field, several thousand feet off the roadway.
The victim’s upper torso, head and arms were free from the machinery, and EMTs initiated life support measures immediately. Additional assistance was requested from the neighboring Brock port Fire Department in Monroe County.
Rescue workers realized that in order to free the farmer, whose physical condition was now rapidly deteriorating, the combine’s hood and corn head structural assembly had to be lifted or pryed off the auger shaft. A hydraulic power rescue tool was placed in a lifting mode along the farmer’s side. The 6-ton capacity of the lifting tool, usually effective in motor vehicle accident rescue work, was totally ineffective in this rescue. This was an unexpected setback to progress at the scene.
A 10-ton capacity hydraulic jack, an air cutting chisel tool, and efforts to disassemble the combine with hand tools were also tried. Command officers realized the futility of the work; progress was not being made.
An additional rescue vehicle arrived approximately 20 minutes into the operation. Included in this vehicle’s tool inventory was a set of air bags.
A new size-up was taken, and it was decided to use the air bags in a lifting mode. Rescue personnel stacked the two air bags one on top of the other near the center of the auger housing area, under the heavy framing and on top of the auger shaft.
“. ..farm machinery accidents can and do present unique challenges to medical and rescue personnel. ”
Working first one then the other air bag, progress was evident, and rescue personnel were able to lift the frame and open the area between the frame and the auger shaft, freeing the victim’s legs. At this point, it became evident that the auger assembly had severely lacerated the victim’s feet at the ankles. EMS personnel transported the victim from the corn field. Despite the all-out professional efforts of emergency personnel, the victim died as a result of the injuries suffered in the accident.
Farm machinery accident rescues
This incident, like many farm accidents, occurred in an off-road location, accessible only by lightweight or fourwheel drive vehicles. Therefore, consideration should be given to reaching the scene of a farm accident.
In farm accident rescues, the possibility of utilizing a variety of rescue equipment in simultaneous operations should be anticipated. Calls for additional emergency personnel and equipment should be initiated immediately if initial rescue efforts prove less than successful.
EMS and fire/rescue personnel should not expect rescue equipment used in routine motor vehicle accidents to operate as successfully at farm machinery rescues. The machinery necessary for farming is constructed of proportionally larger and heavier materials than those found on automobiles. The massive farm equipment is designed to last for generations of use, and rescue personnel must plan for the very real possibility of their standard equipment being ineffective in farm machinery rescues. Once again, backup or alternative tools and techniques must be avaialble.
Command officers should anticipate their personnel being affected by a “That could have been me” syndrome. Rescue workers themselves might be farmers, and the realization that they too may have done exactly what an accident victim did many times in their own farming activities can influence their physical and mental state. A constant monitoring of the emotional health of the rescuers must be maintained. Any rescuer or medical person showing signs of stress or emotional instability should be removed from service and treated as a victim.
Command officers should anticipate stress problems among their personnel before they are apparent. Rotation of personnel working at the scene may be necessary as a standard operating procedure.
In summary, it must be stated that farm machinery accidents can and do present unique challenges to medical and rescue personnel. Although each incident poses its own problems, preplanning for potential hazards is one way to meet the challenge of farm accident rescues.
Emergency medical and fire/rescue personnel must also remember that there is no rescue tool made that saves lives by itself. In all cases, the tools need trained rescuers with positive and professional attitudes. The difference between training and no training could be the difference between life and death.