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In it for the long haul - Tiffany's story

At 18, Tiffany Ward was severely injured at work when both of her arms were caught in a potato processing auger. Her film highlights the traumatic impacts of the incident and describes Tiffany's battle to live with the physical and emotional consequences of her injury.

Watch the film, share her story and leave your comments.

Please note: There are confronting medical images used within this film.

Download a copy of this film (MP4/ZIP, 34MB)

DONNA HEELAN (WHSQ): Manufacturing industries in Queensland can be so diverse they can go from meat to mechanical to metal and cover absolutely everything in between. And there is a lot of moving plant or moving equipment anything from using knives to saws to angle grinders. People are use to doing the same thing over and over again. Ah but unfortunately it's when they do something outside their normal day to day task is when incidents or injuries can occur. Injures in manufacturing industry can be anything from a strained lower back from lifting something the wrong way through to a wound injury from a knife to having a finger or a toe cut off by a saw to being run over by a piece of mobile plant a forklift or having your arm caught in an auger.

JEFF MCGREGOR (Tiffany's dad): She was good growing up - great daughter. Yeah, she was my pride and joy. Always wanted a baby girl. Had the two boys first, but got my daughter. And, of course Tiff being my baby, she was special.

TIFFANY WARD (nee Upton): Before my incident I was like any normal teenage 18 year old girl.

ADAM UPTON (Tiffany's brother): Very popular. She was school captain, but she could have been anything. MATT WARD (Tiffany's partner): I didn't think I had a chance with her.

TIFFANY WARD (nee Upton): We got together officially four weeks before I had my accident.

MATT WARD (Tiffany's partner): We didn't even really know if we loved each other that much. You know, sort of, the first stage when you find out if you love someone or not, and then yeah this happened.

GENERAL TITLE SLIDE - In it for the long haul: The Tiffany Ward story

TIFFANY WARD (nee Upton): Where I worked, I basically peeled potatoes, and then, at the end of the day, would clean machines. Nobody had a particular spot where they cleaned, so it was just wherever you got was where you got and, this day, nobody was cleaning the auger, so I thought "Oh my turn, I guess. I'll go do it". And I was cleaning inside there, and it was turned on…while my arms were inside. So, I don't know whether somebody's reached over and has hit the wrong button, because they were all on the same switchboard. All I remember is it coming on and thinking "Oh no. This ain't good."

DONNA HEELAN (WHSQ): Her right arm had got caught in by the auger, and it was starting to drag her into the auger.

TIFFANY WARD (nee Upton): Because it spins, my arm has spun up inside it. And then I've reacted and stuck my left hand in, to try and pull my right arm out, and it got caught as well. And I just see blood and flesh and stuff going down my arms, and I remember screaming, and somebody coming over and turning the machine off.

DONNA HEELAN (WHSQ): She was quite high off the ground.

TIFFANY WARD (nee Upton): They had to have somebody hold me until the fire brigade and stuff turned up.

DONNA HEELAN (WHSQ): From the witnesses at the time, they said Tiffany was quite calm through the whole thing.

TIFFANY WARD (nee Upton): I was caught in the machine for 40 minutes. Pause Felt like it …yeah, it was forever.

DONNA HEELAN (WHSQ): When I go there, Tiffany had just been airlifted out by CareFlight to Brisbane, to the hospital. The most confronting thing is you've got a young person that's gone to work for the day, and is coming home, quite potentially without her arm.

ADAM UPTON (Tiffany's brother): She was as good as on her deathbed. She was…busted.

JEFF MCGREGOR (Tiffany's dad): Tiffany's mother and I were on our 25th wedding anniversary. We were in Boulia, which is about two hours south of Mt Isa. And I got a phone call, and it was a surgeon. He said "Because she'll be unconscious when they bring her in, you're the next in line". "Can I give them permission to cut her arm off?" I said "Mate, I don't care what you do – just keep here alive. We'll be there in the morning."

ADAM UPTON (Tiffany's brother): Gut-wrenching. Absolutely gut-wrenching to see you little sister, only 18, tubes all down her throat, everything just to keep her alive.

JEFF MCGREGOR (Tiffany's dad): Anytime you hear your daughter or a family member's had an accident. You know, of course, you think the worst. And then when you get a phone call to say you've got to give them permission to cut your daughter's arm off, at 18 year old, it's not the best feeling. Pause

TIFFANY WARD (nee Upton): Dad and Matt both struggled. I could see, you know, they'd come in and they were wanting to be there to support me and stuff, but I know it was hard for them.

MATT WARD (Tiffany's partner): That first day we seen her, I nearly pass out there and then. I felt like I was going to throw up, and got real light-headed and had to sit down and just chill out for a bit. And then she woke up, and the first question she asked me was, "If you're going to go, go now."

TIFFANY WARD (nee Upton): I said to him, "If you're not going to be able to handle me either having one arm or all the scars and stuff, l said leave now." I said, "Don't hang around. Don't leave at the end when it gets too hard." I said, "It's gonna be hard". I said, "Leave now if you want to go." And he said it broke his heart.

MATT WARD (Tiffany's partner): I said, "I'm not going anywhere." So… Pause

TIFFANY WARD (nee Upton): I guess I just …I wanted to know if he was in it for the long haul.

MATT WARD (Tiffany's partner): I just knew it was…that girl. I didn't care if she got her arms amputated, or if was worse off, or if it didn't happen – she was mine, and I wasn't letting her go. So…

TIFFANY WARD (nee Upton): And…he never left. I was in hospital for six weeks. He had two days off. And that was only because my parents made him.

JEFF MCGREGOR (Tiffany's dad): He just sat there and done everything for her.

MATT WARD (Tiffany's partner): If anyone loved anyone, they would do the same thing.

TIFFANY WARD (nee Upton): I think I had six or seven operations. It was my right arm that I originally got caught, and I done my nerves, my tendons… I done basically everything. You can see the scar that goes around, and that was basically all gone. That was ripped. And so what they've done, they've actually taken the muscle and the flap off the top of my left thigh. And then I've had a shattered elbow, which had bone missing, so they've done a bone graft from my left hip to replace the bone, and I had plates and screws in my elbow. And I shattered both wrists, but in my right wrist I have a plate and screws to hold my wrist together. So, on my left hand side, I done my arteries and some tendons and some nerves. I didn't completely cut those – it was just a little bit, so I've go pretty much full function back in my left hand, but it will never be the way it was. Like, my fingers are wonky and stuff. But I don't have any function in my right hand. I can wiggle it, and that's it. I still have movement – well, limited movement – in my elbow. So it's basically…They call it a 'post'.

JEFF MCGREGOR (Tiffany's dad): When Tiff first come home, there was nothing she could do.

TIFFANY WARD (nee Upton): Like, I mean nothing. Matt had to look after me from the day I got out of hospital. I mean showering, toileting, feeding…

MATT WARD (Tiffany's partner): It was like having a baby, you know what I mean? It was just full care.

JEFF MCGREGOR (Tiffany's dad): She was a right-handed person. Now everything's has got to be done left-handed.

TIFFANY WARD (nee Upton): I can't lift a lot of things over my head, because I can only use one hand.

JEFF MCGREGOR (Tiffany's dad): She Jars, she has trouble with – opening jars. Just a simple…making a cup of tea or coffee, she struggles. There is things she'll probably never be able to do. But that's where Matt will do it.

TIFFANY WARD (nee Upton): He still cuts up my food now. I still can't hold a knife and a fork to cut my food up. So I do struggle, I do have days.

ADAM UPTON (Tiffany's brother): The biggest hit I thought she would take was mentally, because going from being the way she was to being all scarred up and damaged…

MATT WARD (Tiffany's partner): Well, she's 18, 19 year old, and most girls then want to put make-up on and look pretty, and there she is with scars all over her.

TIFFANY WARD (nee Upton): Well, I can be in the shops, anywhere, and I can just have people that will just stop and just watch me as I walk past. I feel like freak show, for people to just stand there and stare. The way I cope – I think, to describe it best, I have Matt and I have my dad. And now I have Billy. And they keep me sane, I think. If I was a single-18-year-old girl when I had my accident, I'd be completely different. But knowing that my scars and the way my arms are and all the scars and stuff on my legs don't bother Matt, I think that makes it easy. I feel for Matt. There's a lot of stuff he hasn't spoken to anybody about.

MATT WARD (Tiffany's partner): Not even my mates or anyone. I just, sort of, kept to myself. Around everyone, I was fine, but inside I was just…Every day I use to have nightmares and wake up and grab her and say "Are you alright? Are you alright?" and, sort of, just hold her and that.

TIFFANY WARD (nee Upton): I do think it was preventable. Um, they didn't have things in place that they should have had things in place. I think they should have a safety switch, where all machinery's locked down before cleaning.

DONNA HEELAN (WHSQ): Had the machine have had the guard back on it, Tiffany's arm wouldn't have been able to get into the auger.

MATT WARD (Tiffany's partner): She'd never been inducted on how to use the machine, and all that.

DONNA HEELAN (WHSQ): Young people are vulnerable, in that they're quite often in their first job. They might not have had any previous work experience. They won't have any training, or may not have any training in what they're doing. And everything they're doing is new, and sometimes they don't understand the risks of what they're actually taking place. Older workers can be just as vulnerable. Older workers can sometimes become complacent with what they're doing – they've done it a thousand times before, and they just keep doing the same thing over and over again, regardless that they may be conducting risky behaviour.

TIFFANY WARD (nee Upton): I just want people to know it can happen to anybody. It doesn't only happen to middle-aged men.

DONNA HEELAN (WHQ): The key message would be - have a look at what you do – have a look at what you do safely and look at it from your child's perspective – would you be happy for your son or daughter to do what you're doing? Would you be happy for your son and daughter to do what you're asking your workers to do? And if the answer's no, or you're not sure, you might need to have another look about it, and have a bit of a rethink.

MATT WARD (Tiffany's partner): Have a look at what you're about to do. You can always take a bit of extra time and come home a bit late, not rush the job.

BILLY WARD (Tiffany's son): Daddy!

TIFFANY WARD (nee Upton): Daddy!

MATT WARD (Tiffany's partner): I think a family and kids…they're more important. So…

JEFF MCGREGOR (Tiffany's dad): Why I wanted a daughter so bad, cause my ambition in life was to walk me daughter down the aisle. And, three months ago, I got to do it. The most proudest day of my life.

ADAM UPTON (Tiffany's brother): Not everyone's as lucky as Tiff, you know? It's only 'cause she's such a fighter and a battler that she survived.

JEFF MCGREGOR (Tiffany's dad): She's grown up a hell of a lot – too quick for her age, I think. You know? She was a teenager.

ADAM UPTON (Tiffany's brother): Just out of school, and just starting to get a feel for life. She never got to make her own choices. It was just the path that she was pushed into.

MATT WARD (Tiffany's partner): She's done so well to get here, and we've go our whole life ahead of us now. You take every day as it comes. We'll be right. We've got each other, so… there's nothing else we need.

TIFFANY WARD (nee Upton): I'm quite content with how things are at the moment. All that I want in the future is for Matt and I and the kids to be happy, and have our family and friends around us.

MATT WARD (Tiffany's partner): I always think of what life would be like, but then… …I'm happy with my life. Like, most people think, "Oh yeah it's going to be too hard," but what we've got, most people don't have, they don't know they've got it. The love we've got for each other's just…unreal.

TIFFANY WARD (nee Upton): You know, I know he's in for the long haul, and I'd be lost without him, I think.

MATT WARD (Tiffany's partner): Bye-bye. Ironing-board – Mummy doesn't know how to use one of them, does she? Eh.

RUN TIME: 12 min 47 secs

I wish I had come across your story before I started my OHS assignment for my book keeping course. I would have not complained, questioned and worried as much as I did in trying to complete it. You have so many obstacles to meet and such a positive
attitude and all I had to do was an assignment. You are inspirational and I wish you and your family a future without injury. Take care.

I am as lucky as Tiffany I also had a serious accident at work and my wife Rebecca was by my side all the way. Infact Rebecca is the reason I'm still alive today.

Hey Tiff that is very sad and so good to see you're enjoying life.

Michael Murphy
Good morning Tiffany, firstly you are one inspirational lady and I wish you and your family great fortune and health. I have used your story in two safety campaigns here at Aurizon. Firstly part of a risk management presentation for middle
management and then part of a new year restart meeting for workers. It was well received and it really hit home about our legal obligations to providing a safe workplace. Your story will help save many lives and help prevent injuries. Thank you for sharing your story and journey.

I am a Safety and Training Coordinator in the underground Mining Industry, so many employees say why do I have to read more SWP, more training, permits and JSAs, I will direct them to you video link and your message, they don't understand how lucky
we are and we take it for granted every day. We all have the right as employees or employers to come home and walk in through the door at the end of a shift or swing, not a hospital stay resulting from an accident at work.

My hat goes off to you both and also your father and families because
most people don't understand the effect on the family can be so traumatic as the aftershock of your accident sets in the operations and rehab, you were so lucky you came home, thanks for making the video it must have been hard on you all.

Trevor A
BGS Mine Site WA

Paul Billy
It's sad to see an incident happen that way.

Very true that accidents do happen to anyone, either young or old in their Trade but if we do take our time to re-assess our safety and for others in our work place.

for the video clip, as I will share at my workplace and colleagues.

What courage shown by all invoved especially Tiffany. We have shown the film to our staff. All have been moved by the experience.


Well done for speaking about your incident. I work in manufacturing and can see complacency almost everyday, from people not being trained enough to the other side of the spectrum - they think they are highly trained/skilled. Thanks again.

Tiffany, you are a truely remarkable young woman and an inspiration to all who have been exposed or suffered workplace injures. I have been dealing with injured workers for over 10 years and only a small number of them have shown the courage and
committment that you have.

Still we have employers who will not take the fundmental steps to protect workers in industry induction,training and isolation of equipment would have prevented this injury and the suffering you had to go through.

I wish you and your family the very best
for the future and I look forward to hearing about your progress through WHSQ.

Tiffany and Matt,

Thank you both for having the courage to share your story with the rest of us. I work in the area of OHS and have shown the video on various occasions. It always brings a tear to my eye, due to your amazing resilience,
strength and courage, and of course, the amazing commitment you have both shown to each other and your beautiful family. You are both so very inspiring. I wish you both and your beautiful little man a wonderful life full of love, health and happiness.

Thank you for sharing your story and being
part of the solution to increase health and safety awareness.

We love you Tiffany, you and your husband are an inspiration to us all

I am a workplace Trainer and assessor and I am very passionate about workplace health and safety.

I think what you are doing is fantastic and we fully
support you.

You are an extraordinary person.

Hats off to you mate.

Kindest Regards
Tony and Robyn
Remote Training Services QLD

Sue Trembath
I am a Teacher at a private RTO and a public RTO and show this film to my students as part of the WHS module. I teach Diploma level courses in the Community Services area. My students learn so much more than just a workplace heath and safety
message from Tiffany's story. Her story is one of resilience, strenght and hope and helps my students in so many ways. We all appreciate the sharing of this personal story and acknowledge the power of the messages it conveys.

Colin, Toowoomba
Thanks Tiffany for sharing. You and those around you have definetly been on a journey. I am intersted to share this with my workplace. Do you make appearences?

eSAFE subscriber
Thank you for providing this detail, namely the film. To see this film is greatly appreciated. I wish the family, Tiffany and Matt all the best. Thank you again for providing access to this film.

Tracy, Waterford
Tiffany, you are wonderful for sharing your story and getting the safety message out there. I work in WHS and weekly ask my team to remember that everyone just thinks it's just another day that I have to go to work but it really is all
about just another day I have to go to work and come back home safely. My niece Patrice has always spoken of you and Matt so highly, so you can imagine my surprise when she advised the lovely girl who's story had moved me, was the same girl she had often spoken of with warmth and love. Bravo to you and
buy that man of yours a cape! I wish you both all the best of luck and love throughout your life.

Jenny, Bamaga
This was a very good story to share with students going to work experience. The students say she is a very brave person for sharing this story. They say that Matt is a very good man.

eSAFE subscriber
15/10/2012 8:29 PM

Work safety must be a priority. Beautiful girl scarred for life through negligence. Her beautiful and intelligent personality will be her saving grace alongside a wonderful partner, father and family.

eSAFE subscriber
She is a very strong resilient young woman with lots of support around her. Not a lot of people are as lucky as her to have that support.

Lauren, Newcastle, NSW
Just watched your story Tiffany. What an extraordinary young woman you are! After I watched the doco the first thing I did was fill in the survey WHS Qld has on the site, because I wanted them to know what a great job they've done
with your doco. Having worked in the media for 20 years I'm so impressed with how well the doco tells your story. I was moved to tears. I think you and your family have been extremely courageous in telling your story. I was involved in a WHS incident in my workplace five years ago. Although I no longer
work for the organisation I am still seeing professionals to help me resolve the problems that arose for me out of the incident. I count myself lucky as I had tremendous support from my workplace (once we all realised what was going on)professionals, family and friends. While I would not compare my situation
to yours (I wasn't physically hurt) I can empathise with the impact on your life, the stress on family and the trauma you experience as you try to get your life on track. My experience has led me to take up a research degree looking at WHS practices in my field of work. My motivation is to mitigate the
possibility of others going through what I experienced. Best wishes to you and your remarkable family. Good luck with all your hopes and dreams.

Ralph, Bunbury, WA
I also believe that all workers need to watch this video and in particular any young person before they start work ideally as part of the induction process. We have included a hyperlink from our website to YouTube to "get it our there"
and will also provide information in our next newsletter. Ralph Keegan CEO Frontline Safety and Training.

Ken, eSAFE subscriber
I think every worker should be shown this film, regardless of age or time spent in their role. During an orientation or every year at a staff conference - to remind them. More videos like this would show that similar accidents can
occur anywhere, anytime to real people. I will be showing my family this film.

Michael, Sunshine Coast
Hi Tiffany, truly a horrific story. Been involved with OHS for twenty five years and some employers still have not got the message. Your film made me cry and then angry, but I am glad you survived, heartfelt wishes to you and your

eSAFE subscriber
Matt you're a legend! Tiffany you have a great outlook on life

Sally, Townsville
What a terrible accident but an amazing triumph in the end. Tiffany, you are an amazing and inspiring young lady. And your family are amazing as well. You should be so proud of your achievements and i hope you know that by sharing this
story you will save lives. I hope you and your beautiful family enjoy a long and happy life.

Mark, Alligator Creek, Mackay, QLD
Tiffany, we played this at a Toolbox meeting at work to the guys and girls and there was not a dry eye...There was a lot of talk amongst personnel about this. Going to workshops / Sites would be a great help as it makes
people from the top of the food chain right to the bottom of it realise that an incident of this nature can upset your life style/family in just a second of happening. You are an Inspiration both you and your husband and family.

Greg, Gold Coast
Thank you Tiffany for sharing your story. It will inspire and remind us all that life can change in the blink of an eye as it has for you. Let's hope that your story will cause people to stop, think and act safely at work and at home.
Thank you for your courage in sharing with us!

Merryl, Tully Nth Qld
I read your story and have to tell you, that is just a great show of strength and maturity from someone so young, touched by such adversity, Tiffany - It is inspirational how you've had the tenacity to overcome what life has thrown
at you and then, to top it off, go public and tell your story to help others. Glad you picked a "keeper" for your partner too, you seem to have good support from those that love you. Beauty is not only skin deep - you've proven that!

Sando (HSE Advisor), Brisbane
Tiffany & Matt, You're an inspiration and have made a valuable contribution to promoting safety in the workplace through this film. The consequences of your unfortunate story are the reasons I am an ambassador for safe
working conditions everyday of my career! I'm a father of a 2 year old daughter and the anguish of all your messages including your father's were overwhelming. Thankyou for distributing your message.

Annette, Brisbane
Tiffany, you are amazing! Your strength is inspiring and so too is the strength of your family. You deserve true happiness and from what I can see you certainly have that with Matt. Truly an inspirational couple. Best wishes for your
future. xx

Karla, Mackay
Hi Tiffany, Thank you for sharing your story. I am the safety officer for an organisation who employs young apprentices and trainees. I have shown your video to staff as a reminder of why it is important to keep our workers safe in the workplace.
All the best to you and your family.

Allen, Bribie Island
Tiffany you are an unbelievable lady. I wish I had your grit.

eSAFE subscriber, Brisbane
What an amazingly brave woman to share her story. It was also uplifting to see such lovely people so much in love.

eSAFE subscriber, Brisbane
Congrats to WHSQ, I like the approach of getting personal and telling a story to get WHS message into the community and workplaces. Massive thanks to Tiffany and family for bravely telling your story. I hope life brings you
many happy moments!

Peter, Brisbane
Powerful message. Very touching story. Thanks for giving me strength and determination to drive home the safety message against what I thought were difficult odds. Certainly puts things into perspective. I feel humbled by you sharing your
story with me. You have an amazing will and your familys strength is reflected by your incredible attitude.

Steve, Macmahon Contractors
Just ran your film are our head office and across all of our QLD projects today. Very strong message, thanks for sharing your story.

eSAFE subscriber
I shared it to all I know on Facebook. Big thanks to Tiffany and her family for sharing this story.

Karen, Urunga, NSW
Tiffany, you are my hero! What you have gone through so many people should be inspired by your story. I'm so glad that you are still with us, we all love you, Matty, Billy and now Ash - What you and Matty have is true love for each
other and it will last forever.

George, Health & Safety Coordinator
It brought tears to my eyes and renewed passion for health and safety. Her attitude for survival is remarkable. The incident was preventable. The courage of Tiffany and her family through the ordeal must be shared,
far and wide.

eSAFE subscriber, Brisbane
Horrified by the accident but touched emotionally that it has a fairytale ending.

eSAFE subscriber, Brisbane
As an OHS professional I'm acutely aware of the risks of any task, but its difficult to help others to be aware of the risks without them being able to understand it, feel it and experience it themselves. Tiffany's story and
her strength in being able to tell it will be a tremendous tool for us to use to help our team members understand the risks, and change their behaviours. Well done to a brave family.

eSAFE subscriber, Brisbane
Wow. What an emotional journey for them all - very powerful presentation and message.

eSAFE subscriber, Brisbane
An incredible reality check never to be complacent and ensure vigilance with safety. An amazing woman who took her tragic and personal experience into a lesson for other workers. A story that will not be forgotten. Thanks Tiffany.

Lauren, Brisbane
Tiffany is amazing, I don't know how she handled everything so maturely and stayed so positive. I will be sharing her film with my colleagues at our next WHS meeting.