GRAEME Bolitho can’t bend the index finger of his right hand.
The 46-year-old ran his hand along the blade of a knife in November at Riverside Meats, cutting tendons, an artery and nerves in his finger.
But Mr Bolitho believes the accident could have been prevented if he was given appropriate training.
“They (Riverside Meats) got me to do a job I’d never done before with no training,” he said.
“And then they walked away and left me unsupervised.”
That job was sticking cattle.
The animal is stunned first but sticking it is how it is killed.
“But what happened was it involuntarily moved up as I was sticking the knife up so when it came down my hand just slid up the knife,” Mr Bolitho said.
“It was training.
“I spoke to some of the guys later on who do it every day and they said I was doing it wrong, that’s how I cut myself, but no-one had told me I was doing it wrong and no-one showed me how to do it properly.”
As soon as it happened, Mr Bolitho knew he was in trouble.
“Straight away there was no feeling,” he said.
“When I found the supervisor he drove me to the hospital and I went in. The doctor was very nice ... but said ‘we can’t do anything here, you’re going to have to go to Bendigo’.”
So Mr Bolitho called a friend who took him to work so he could get his car and drive himself to Bendigo.
“I had no pain killers. It wasn’t overly painful — just throbbing a bit. Because I cut the nerves I couldn’t feel a lot,” he said.
“I knew it was bad. I didn’t think I would lose my finger, I was just more worried I’d never be able to use it properly again.
“I was lucky there was a very good plastic surgeon on hand and he did the operation, otherwise it could have been even worse than it is now.”
Mr Bolitho was in Bendigo hospital for three days and will have to have another operation in the near future because he still can’t bend his finger.
“It did cut through the other fingers but it was my index finger that got damaged the most,” he said.
Following the surgery, Mr Bolitho had splints around his finger which meant he couldn’t use his right hand.
“I couldn’t even put shoes on,” he said.
Mr Bolitho was off work for three months.
“Eventually I was able to go back. I was back for three weeks before we got made redundant.”
Like most meatworkers Mr Bolitho has had lots of cuts to his hands but none as bad as last year.
“I still struggle to move my finger,” he said.
“I get caught on everything and the scar hurts like hell if you bang it into something.”
Like many workers from the abattoir, Mr Bolitho is still owed entitlements – in his case about $16,000.
Mr Bolitho had worked at the Echuca abattoir, on and off, for more than 15 years.
A slaughterman, Mr Bolitho said he would have preferred management to be open and transparent from the outset.
“To have just told us what was going on,” he said. “We still don’t really know what happened, or what is going to happen.”