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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard Magazine

Aftermath — Mike Duke

In March 2017 the former drainlayer and truck driver lost his right hand in an auger less than a week into a new job at a Timaru meat plant. He talked to PETER BATEMAN.

What was your role at the works?

I was being trained to run the rendering department, sorting out the blood which gets heated up in a machine, goes through a drier and is then bagged up to be sold. It was an intense job: running the computer in the control room, unblocking the machine if the metal detector goes off because there’s an ear tag in the offal. It constantly went off. You’re up and down three storeys, lots of stairs, it’s hot and noisy. Not everyone’s cup of tea really.

What was going on immediately before your injury?

At the end of my fourth day my boss asked me to start everything up and get it going in the morning because he was going to be late in. There’s a lot to do. I started up the machine which separates the fat from the offal, that’s the first thing you get going. I went downstairs about 10 o’clock to get the blood bank going. There’s a procedure you use and I wrote it down in a notebook so I wouldn’t forget. But I did forget, didn’t I?

What happened next?

I went back upstairs to the control room and then I thought, oh shit, I haven’t cleared the machine. Went back down. To clear it you’ve got to look underneath to see if it is blocked. I held the top with my left hand and my right hand was in the hole for balance. I was so flustered I didn’t even realise the machine was running. I had a glove on and the auger pulled me in. I was six metres from the stop button so I just yanked my arm out. It was a jagged cut. I didn’t react for 20 seconds. I just stood there and thought fuck, I’ve lost my hand. Luckily I didn’t faint because I was alone and would have bled to death. The department is away from the main part of the works because of the smell.

How did you summon help?

I went out and saw this guy and yelled at him. He kept walking. Are you serious!? By this stage I’ve walked 100 metres, down from the first level and outside, and I’m starting to feel faint. I saw someone else but she disappeared when she saw the blood pumping out a metre from the stump. I walked around to the courtyard and people came. You can tell it affected people – I just looked at their faces. But I can control pain and I don’t freak out. I just lay down and held my arm with the other hand.

How was the pain?

Adrenalin meant I didn’t feel anything until I lay down. Then there was serious pain. Horrible pain. And it just didn’t stop. Ambulance guys gave me a shot but I was still too amped so they gave me another one. That was a very long hour. They operated straight away. In theatre I didn’t want to be knocked out and I could hear everything going on, but after a while I said nah, knock me out.

How has the loss of the hand affected you?

For the first six months I was so drugged up I thought it was all a bit of a joke. When I went off the meds, that’s when the shit hit the fan. I’m slowly getting there. I’m not a couch potato. I go fishing and do martial arts and work out and play bass guitar. I’ve got the bass playing back to a T. I’m never going to be as good as I was on guitar but I’m still better than most! I just had to find a new way to play.

How did the family take it?

They were pretty angry at the meatworks, but I said look, it’s happened, it’s not just their fault, it’s my fault too – I put my hand in there. I’m turning it all into a positive. The missus can’t wait for me to go back to work!

You’re going back to the meat plant?

Yep. They’re waiting until I’ve done the physiotherapy with the bionic hand I’m getting. Then they’ll figure out what kind of work I can do. That won’t be until at least February.

What kind of bionic hand?

She’s a beauty! I have my first fitting in a couple of weeks, then they’ll adjust it, then I’ll get it a few weeks later. My stump’s going to hurt and I haven’t used my muscles so I’ll get cramp, so there’ll be three months of physio too. I won’t be able to work in the main factory because this hand isn’t waterproof, but it’s very capable – there’s so much you can do with it, it’s amazing really. That’s why it costs $178,000. The meat plant is paying for it. It’s the latest thing out, made in Scotland. My daughter’s teacher asked if I would go to the school and do a presentation once I get the hand fitted. It’s all part of my recovery. I quite enjoy that sort of thing.

Any worries about the new hand?

Only if I went fishing and when I cast out the thing fell off! I’m going to have to insure it. I wouldn’t take it out on my boat, though. They might not pay out.


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