A Queensland dairy farmer has made an impassioned plea for farmers to take more care with children in their workplaces after his son was seriously injured in a farm accident.
Jim Watts, who milks 80 cows year-round at Queen Mary Falls, near Killarney, Qld, said the accident had been devastating for his family.
And although he accepts that children will always have a role to play in helping on the farm and learning about what it involved, he pleads with farmers to always have eyes on their children when they are in the workplace.
Mr Watts's nine-year-old son Mitchell was injured in April in an accident in the feed storage area on the farm.
Mitchell was standing on a platform on a small storage shed for minerals while Mr Watts backed the feed mixer up to it, accidentally bumping the shed with the tractor.
Mitchell was dangling one of his feet outside the shed, which became jammed between the mixer and the side of the shed when the tractor bumped it. He broke five bones in his foot and ripped the muscle from the bone in the accident. He required 24 stitches and a skin graft and has undergone numerous surgeries since to fix his injured foot.
The accident has turned the family's lives upside down.
Mr Watts's wife Sharon was forced to stop working at her job off-farm for months to look after Mitchell and take him numerous times to hospital in Brisbane. Mitchell missed many months of school and still faces regular hospital visits and physiotherapy so he can walk properly again.
Mr Watts said the accident happened so quickly, and although he thought he knew where Mitchell was standing, he could not see him.
The accident had made him more conscious of safety. "You don't think about it until something happens," he said.
He now insists that his three other sons ù aged 15, 12 and 7 ù are careful on the farm.
His oldest son sometimes helps with the tractor work and Mr Watts has made a rule that anyone driving a tractor is not to move it if the younger children are helping but are not in sight.
He also insists that if the younger children are helping, they work alongside him, but if they want to play, they return home and not play in the workplace.
The accident has also taken a toll on Mr Watts emotionally.
"It got me down a fair bit ù when you think you are the cause of what happened," he said. "I have ongoing nightmares about the accident."
Mr Watts said the accident had also taken a financial toll on the family.
It had cost them at least $30,000 in lost wages, the cost of driving to and from Brisbane and lost production, as Mr Watts had been unable to devote the time he normally did to farm tasks.
That type of accident hit a small farm that did not have employees particularly hard, he said.
Mr Watts said he decided to speak out about the accident because he did not want to see anyone else go through a similar incident. "It only takes a split second for something to happen," he said.D