Enderby woman's story highlights WorkSafe B.C. initiative

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ENDERBY - It was supposed to be just a regular day out mending a fence on the family farm, but in a fraction of a moment a 21-year-old Enderby woman became entangled in machinery and her life was in the hands of a medical team at Kelowna General Hospital.

In a media release this week, WorkSafe B.C. described how Devon Smith was injured on her 21st birthday. She was out with her father Allan fixing a fence in a cow pasture, intalling new posts around their Enderby hobby farm. It had been on their to-do list for weeks and was just part of their routine on the farm.

“I wasn’t even thinking anything could go wrong,” Smith says. “We had completed putting in six or seven posts already and it wasn’t a big deal. I had said to my dad, ‘I’m going to go out and ride my horse after.’ Well, that never happened.”

She doesn't remember the incident, but it's believed either her coat or her hair became entangled in the the post hole auger. The device drills into the soil using a rotating screw blade and in this case was powered by the tractor.

Smith's dad shut off the auger immediately and called for an ambulance. She was rushed to Vernon Jubilee Hospital then tranferred to Kelowna. She spent a week on life support with life-threatening injuries, including a separated right lung, 13 broken or fractured bones and a stroke to her left side after a carotid artery in her neck collapsed. Her recovery in hospital spanned five and a half weeks, but it wasn't the end of her journey to health.

Smith continues respiratory treatments and physiotherapy sessions in Vernon weekly. She's back to many of her old activities and just finished a two-year term as the B.C. 4-H Ambassador, but she says her perspective on farm equipment safety has changed. When she looks back, she says she was standing too close to the auger and she should have tied her hair back and been wearing fitted clothing.

“You have to treat everything like you’re doing it for the first time,” Smith says. “When you’re doing stuff that’s so routine, you don’t think about it as hard as if you were doing it for the first time.”

According to the WorkSafe B.C. release, since 2009 there have been 145 equipment and machinery-related, serious injuries on B.C. ranches and farms. Of those, 11 were fatal. Smith's story highlights WorkSafe B.C.'s campaign to bring awareness to their tractor and equipment safety initiative.

“Whether on a hobby farm, or a large-scale farming operation, there is no greater importance than safety – especially around tractors and power take-offs," WorkSafe B.C. manager of industry and labour services Joy Piehl says. "These new resources contain great information and prevention tips and resources that anyone who works in the industry can benefit from.”

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To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at chelston@infonews.ca or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

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