“Lend me a hand.” How many times have you heard that expression or said it yourself?

For farmers, “lend me a hand” may take on a literal meaning.

A few years ago I read that one out of every 10 farmers has an amputation. Hopefully, that rate has decreased, but attend any gathering of farmers and you will begin to notice how many of them are missing fingers, arms, and even legs.

In my own family I have a sister with a below the knee amputation and two nephews missing fingers due to farm injuries. Of course, that doesn’t count the fingers that were reattached or the many near misses, the most recent from a post driver.

The farmers with amputations I have interviewed over the years repeat the same story: I was careless and I didn’t think it would happen to me. After their injuries they changed their ways so it wouldn’t happen again.

Here is their advice: Leave your rings at home. They catch on machinery and ladders. My nephew spent well over $15,000 20 years ago and still lost his fingers.

Take the strings off the sweatshirts, PTOs love them.

Use sturdy shoes without laces. Laces come untied and become catch points for tripping that can cause you to fall into equipment or the laces themselves become entangled in rotating parts.

Long hair or flowing beards have no place on the farm. When I was teaching farm safety to high school ag students one pupil caught on quickly. He said, ”If it dangles, it tangles.” That about sums it up.

The final advice came from a 15 year old whose life changed in an instant. He was safety conscious. The baler had clogged and he had turned the tractor off before going to the back of the baler to work on it. His friend came by and decided to listen to the tractor’s radio since he didn’t see his friend around. The PTO was still engaged. The arm came off at the shoulder. Shut the PTO down then go the extra step. Take the key.

Amputations have immediate effects in terms of pain, suffering, and financial distress.

But the ramifications go even further. The person must devise new ways of doing everyday tasks. This is done through experimentation which sometimes carries additional risks.

There are few prosthetic devices that can stand up to the rigors of physical farm tasks. The devices themselves increase the risk of additional trauma because a prosthesis has no feeling.

Balance is also affected when you lose a limb. The chronic effects of any limb loss include accelerated arthritis and degenerative joint disease as other body parts have to carry out double duty.  Decrease your risks of this dreaded outcome.

Learn from these stories and follow their advice. Don’t ever let “lend me hand” take on a different meaning for you.