Sunday 11 July 2010

Knocking some sense in

My mother would often say she wished she could knock some sense in to me, most probably because she would have liked me to do something more ladylike with my life, or maybe she just wished to have had a more co-operative and amiable child. Who knows? But to date no sense has ever managed to get knocked into me.

And now even the sheep are trying........

Farmers are dogged with health and safety rules, all manner of machines have to be properly protected, electrical currents checked, medicines held under lock and key, ladders firmly secured, courses to attend to make one aware of the dangers on the farm and yet there is the unpredictability of livestock. The health and safety officers on the prowl don't even give the livestock a second glance (thankfully).

Shep was once required to fill in a risk assessment form for working on a particular farm, I humphed at the idea - where on earth would you start? I was told it was necessary, especially if I wished to continue working on this particular farm, it was an obligation and would only take a minute or two......... Umm!

Twenty pages later and it was requested that I stop. Okay I admit the pet lip had come out and I went to town on the job. The first entry was travelling to the job and watching out for a sheep crossing the unfenced road. The second entry was alighting from the vehicle and ensuring the farm dog didn't bite you and so it went along the same vein until the pen was removed from my hand. I mean, common sense for heavens sake - where on earth do you start with the hidden dangers of farm and livestock work?

As with the past few weeks, in fact my entire working lifetime, them there animals that I work with will get you one way or another no matter how vigilant you are, but managing to knock any sense in is a different matter!

The first incident this shearing time was in actual fact almost a full month prior to the second incident, both very similar and both leaving me seeing stars, in actual fact I think I saw the whole galaxy the second time!

Shearing sheep. Easy really, you grab them, sit them on their backsides, turn on the machine and remove the wool then let them go. Whilst doing this you bear in mind that they might kick, wriggle, bite, try to tip you upside down, kick the hand piece out of your hand, stick their horns in places you'd sooner they didn't and generally try to maim you if they got but half a chance. Your destination is in your hands, handle them right and if luck is with you all will be well, and so it is.

Except...... sometimes things go wrong.

There were two of us clipping and the other shearer had clipped his sheep and let it away. Just at the point of impact I caught sight of a sheep out of the corner of my eye. Bent over and concentrating on the job in hand the loose sheep had seemingly tried to spring board over this obstacle which was in it's way. I happened to be the obstacle and the sheep got it's judgement wrong!

First I knew of the whole escapade was one hell of a weight landing on my head, followed by a crunching sound, which left me in a prone position on top of the sheep I was shearing.The quick thinking of those around me had the machine turned off in a flash before any damage could be done. Concern soon turned to laughter as is oft the case in these situations and I took five in an attempt to get my focusing back in order.

Now you would think I would have some sense knocked into me and learnt by my mistakes, except in all fairness it wasn't my mistake it was just one of those things, the joys of working with livestock!

Almost a month later and I find myself in the same position, except I had even less idea of what had happened this time. Again going about my business, clipping away merrily, totally oblivious to the outside world when I received one hell of a thump on the top of my head. I was aware that the hand piece had flown out of my hand and my head hurt but other than that I was clueless as to the escapade. Again I was left lying on top of the sheep I was attempting to clip and someone had the sense to turn the machine off. I saw a pair of feet and what seemed like a very distant voice as someone offered to finish clipping my sheep. I'm made of tougher stuff than that and finished the critter myself, although I seemed to have little control of my limbs and my strength seemed to be sapped.

I took five. Unfortunately there was a lot of staff on hand that day and they seemed concerned as to my welfare. Not being one for a great deal of fuss I resumed clipping, there were only a dozen or so left to do before the dinner break which was fortunate as I have to admit I felt woozy and was frustrated at my lack of strength and the fact my mobility and co-ordination seemed to have gone haywire.

The stop for lunch saw me rally and all was well. There were various accounts but seemingly a sheep went over me, it may have hit me or it may not have but it took the hand piece out of my hand which swung in the air and it was the cable of the machine which clobbered me on the head. All sounded rather pathetic I thought for the amount of grief it seemed to cause me.

Nothing short of a miracle that on both occasions no damage was caused to the machine or hand piece. Combs easily break when the hand piece is sent flying out of your hand - but hey! I was lucky!

Was any sense knocked in? Not at all, even the sheep can't manage that one!
As for health and safety? Well, it boils down to commonsense doesn't it, work with livestock and you'll occasionally have cause for an accident, if you're fortunate enough to have others around you they'll be quick witted enough to keep any damage to the minimum. Should you be working alone you've just got to keep your wits about you and hope for the best. No amount of form filling is going to resolve that one.