Work Smart. Work Safe.
Keep your "Heads Up" and work safe!

What would you do if you couldn’t do what you love?

By Matt King

A snowboarder cuts through the snow, his board carving powder like a knife, the white flakes puffing up in the air clinging onto his goggles and jacket.

A goalie crouches in front of his net, his hockey skates digging into the ice, his face sweaty under his mask, his right hand tightly gripping his stick, his left glove ready to catch a renegade puck.

Have you been this person? What kind of interests and activities do you take part in? What would you do if those things were taken away and you found yourself inactive, unable to do the things you’ve always done?

This is what happened to Garrett. In August 2012, Garrett, 19 at the time, was working as a labourer when, while lowering a concrete manhole ring, a steel rung spun up and slammed against his finger, pinching and crushing it in the process.

It wasn’t a matter of training, it wasn’t a matter of asking questions. In this case, the incident was borne out of simply not being aware of the environment. His partner had kindly stepped back to get out of Garrett’s way, but as he did so, he stepped onto the rung. In an instant, as the rung shot up, Garrett’s left hand pinkie was caught, the nerve pinched, the bones crunched.

Garrett doesn’t blame his partner. He was, after all, trying to give him space to do his job. More space seemed safe. But sometimes, things can get in the way of good intentions.

Being aware of your environment is absolutely imperative to being safe on the worksite.

If you’re a construction worker, the music in your headphones can be the difference between hearing a forklift and feeling a forklift. If you’re a dishwasher, being aware of the water temperatures can be the difference between being clean and being burned. If you’re a retail worker, being aware of your environment, of a weak ladder or a tripping hazard, can be the difference between helping a customer and helping yourself off the floor after falling.

Garrett is in his first year of civil engineering at NAIT. He still wears a brace and is looking at having more surgery after getting pins placed in his finger and then having them taken out. He still goes to the hand clinic. He still doesn’t have much sensation in his finger.

In Garrett’s case, a second of not being aware of one’s environment resulted in a broken finger. It was the difference between spending his spring snowboarding and spending it sitting down. It was the difference between happily catching a puck and reluctantly catching some sleep.

Thanks to Garrett and his family for sharing their story with us. They’ve provided an important reminder: Keep your heads up. Work smart. Work safe.

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