Young worker safety – Tiffany’s storyOn March 7, 2020 by Raul Dinwiddie
Where I worked I basically peeled
potatoes, and then at the end of the day would clean machines. Nobody had a
particular spot on where they cleaned; it was just wherever you got was where you
got. And this day, nobody was cleaning the auger so I though, “Oh, my turn I guess. I’ll go
do it.” And I was cleaning inside there and it was turned on.
Well my arms were inside. I don’t know whether somebody’s reached over and has
hit the wrong button because they were all on the same switchboard. All I remember
is it coming on and thinking, “Oh no, this ain’t good.” Because it spins, my arm has
spun up inside it, and then I’ve reacted and stuck my left hand in to try and
pull my right arm out, and it got caught as well. And I just see blood and flesh and stuff
going down my arms, and I remember screaming and somebody coming over and
turning the machine off. They had to have somebody hold me until the fire brigade
and stuff turned up. I was caught in the machine for 40 minutes. It felt like it was forever. As
good as on her deathbed. She was busted. Tiffany’s mother and I were on our 25th
wedding anniversary, we were in Boulia, which is about two hours south of Mount Isa. And I got a phone call and it was the surgeon. He said because she’ll be
unconscious when they bring her in, you’re the next in line,
can I give them permission to cut her arm off. I said, “Mate, I don’t care what
you do, you just keep her alive. We’ll be there in the morning.”
Gut-wrenching. Absolutely gut-wrenching, just to see your little sister,
only 18, tubes all down her throat, everything just to keep her alive. Anytime you hear your daughter or a family member’s had accident, you know,
of course you think the worst. And then when you get a phone call to say you’ve
got to give permission to cut your daughter’s arm off, at 18 years old, it’s
not the best feeling. Dad and Matt both struggled. I could see,
you know, they’d come in and they’re wanting to be there to support
me and stuff, but I know it was hard for them. That first day we seen her, I nearly
passed out there and then. Felt like I was gonna throw up and got real light-headed and had to sit down and just chill out for a bit. Then she woke up and the
first question she asked me was, “If you’re gonna go, go now.” I said to him, “If you’re
not gonna be able to handle me either having one arm or all the scars and
stuff,” I said, “Leave now.” I said, “Don’t hang around.
Don’t leave at the end when it gets too hard.” I said, “It’s gonna be hard.” I said,
“Leave now if you want to go.” And he said it it broke his heart.
I said, “I’m not going anywhere.” I guess I just… I wanted to know he was in it for the
long haul. I just knew it was that girl. I didn’t care if she got her arms amputated
or it was worse off or if it didn’t happen. She was she was mine, and I wasn’t
letting her go. And [he] never left. I was in hospital for six
weeks, he had two days off. And that was only because my parents made him. He just sat
there and done everything for her. If anyone loved anyone, they would do the same
thing. I think I had six or seven operations.
It was my right arm that I originally got caught, and I done my nerves, my
tendons, I done basically everything. You can see the scar that goes around
and that was basically all gone, that was ripped. And so what they’ve done, they’ve
actually taken the muscle and the flap off the top of my left thigh. And then
I’ve had a shattered elbow which had bone missing, so they’ve done a bone
graft from my left hip, replaced the bone, and I had plates and screws in my elbow.
And I shattered both wrists, but in my right wrist I have a plate and screws to
hold my wrist together. So on my left hand side I done
my arteries and some tendons and some nerves. I didn’t completely cut those, it
was just a little bit so I’ve got pretty much full function back in my left hand,
but it will never be the way it was. Like, my fingers are all wonky and stuff.
But I don’t have any function in my right hand. I can wiggle it and that’s it.
I still have movement, or limited movement, in my elbow so it’s basically…
they call it a post. When Tiff first came home, there was nothing she could do. Like,
I mean nothing. Matt had to look after me from the day I got out of hospital.
I mean, showering, toileting, feeding. It was like having a baby, you know what I mean? It was just full care. She was
a right-handed person, now everything’s got to be done left-handed. I can’t lift
a lot of things over my head because I can only use one hand.
Jars she has trouble with, opening jars. Just a simple making a cup of tea or
coffee, she struggles. There is things she’ll probably never be able to do,
but that’s where Matt will do it. He still cuts up my food now.
I still can’t hold a knife and a fork to cut my food up. So I do struggle. I do
have days. The biggest hit I thought she would take was mentally
because going from being the way she was to being all scarred up and damaged.
She’s 18, 19 years old. Most girls then are wanting to put makeup on and look pretty,
and there she is with scars all over her. Well I can be in the shops
anywhere and I can just have people that will just stop and just watch me as I
walk past. I feel like a freak show, for people to just stand there and stare. The
way I cope, I think, to describe it best, I have Matt, and I have my dad, and now I
have Billy. They keep me sane, I think. If I was a single 18- year-old girl when
I had my accident, I’d be completely different. But knowing that my scars and
the way my arms are and all the scars and stuff on my legs don’t bother Matt, I
think that makes it easy. I feel for Matt. There’s a lot of stuff
he hasn’t spoken to anybody about. Not even my mates or anyone. I just sort of kept to
myself. But around everyone, I was fine, but inside I was just… Every day I used to have
nightmares and wake up and grab her and say, “You alright? You alright?” Sort of just
hold her and that. I do think it was preventable. They
didn’t have things in place that they should have had things in place. I think
they should have a safety switch where all machinery is locked down before
cleaning. Had the machine have had the guard back on it,
Tiffany’s arm wouldn’t have been able to get into the auger. She had never been
inducted on how to use the machine and all that. Young people are vulnerable in
that they’re quite often in their first job, they might not have had any
previous work experience, they won’t have any training or may not have any
training in what they’re doing, and everything they’re doing is new. And
sometimes they don’t understand the risks of what they’re actually taking
place. I just want people to know it can happen to anybody.
Doesn’t only happen to middle-aged men. Key message would be, have a look at what
you do, have a look if what you do safely, and look at it from your child’s
perspective – would you be happy for your son or daughter to do what you’re doing?
Would you be happy for your son and daughter to do what you’re asking your
workers to do? And if the answer is no or you’re not sure, you might need to have
another look about it and have a bit of a rethink. Have a look at what you’re about to
do. You can always take a bit of extra time and come home a bit late, not rush the job.