Backpacker’s farm safety warning after leg-crush injury

A British backpacker whose leg was crushed while working on a North Queensland pumpkin farm is warning workers and farms to ensure machinery is used safely to avoid devastating injuries.

Holly Young was completing regional farm work when her left thigh was crushed by the metal arm of a conveyer belt while riding on the back of a trailer, when it clipped a box as the farmer navigated a corner.

“The pain was quite extreme and I couldn’t move my leg. I was stuck in that position for four to five minutes. Very quickly the other workers got the attention of the driver. I managed to remove the metal from off my legs. Straight away I knew something was majorly wrong. No one had said I couldn’t sit in that position and others had sat there earlier that day,” Ms Young said.

The 21-year-old underwent major surgery to have a metal rod inserted in her leg, kept in place by screws in her knees and hip. Despite being unable to work, WorkCover decided to limit her loss of earnings payments to the one farm shift on 13 November last year, the day she was injured, instead of paying the average of her total earnings over a three-month period where she worked 40-hour weeks.

“The wage payments I was expected to survive on were unlivable. I had worked really hard and should not have been punished for taking a days’ work on another farm. I couldn’t shower, eat or do anything alone after the injury. My friend had to work double hours to pay my rent while also caring for me. It was scary being here with no family and told I probably couldn’t work for six months,” Ms Young said.

“If you don’t feel comfortable doing a task that seems dangerous then don’t do it. Speak up and stand up for yourself. There is pressure to work through pain, sickness and even injury to reach the required working time to stay here. People put their wellbeing at risk when they shouldn’t. There should be other options to secure your working holiday VISA such as hospitality or office work.”

Slater and Gordon Townsville Associate Sarah Singh, who is representing Ms Young in a workers’ compensation claim, said the farm had failed to adequately supervise her or advise not to sit next to the metal boom. Ms Singh said Holly had also been let down by the WorkCover insurer and she deserved better.

“Holly was put in a tough position as she could no longer work and was given next to nothing in weekly benefits from WorkCover. She couldn’t return home to the UK after major surgery and she could not afford to either. COVID restrictions meant she would not be able to return to Australia even if she did fly home last year.

“The farm had a duty of care to keep all their workers safe and free from injury. They should have said do not sit on the tractor carriage due to safety reasons or at least have had safety signage in place on site to prevent other people sitting on the trailer, asking them to stand.”

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