Pulp and Paper Canada

Two Vital Tips

July 1, 2006  By Pulp & Paper Canada

Think of the repercussions of your actions

Think of the repercussions of your actions

We treated a 27 year-old man who had tried to get his girlfriend’s cat down from a power pole. He took a long metal bar and tried to coax the cat down. The bar came in contact with the power line, causing the electricity to race through the bar and through his body. It finally exited out of his feet, blowing holes in them the size of quarters. When we were treating the man, he said he knew better and couldn’t believe he was so “stupid.” I don’t like using that word, because I don’t think that not being fully aware of a danger makes a person stupid. That’s why we have safety training. If you are aware of the dangers and just go ahead and take the risk anyway… that’s a different story.


I know many of you will say, “I’m a lot smarter than he was and would never do anything that stupid.” But every day there are thousands of people who will do things that are just as careless. How many of you have ever attempted to pass someone on the highway when it wasn’t 100% safe to do so? Was your family in the vehicle? Let’s look at the repercussions of your actions. In the event of something going wrong, you could have wiped out your entire family. You could have caused them devastating, life-changing injuries. You could have killed the people in the other vehicle just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and because you wanted to save a few seconds and the vehicle in front of you was going too slow for your liking.

Now, what sounds more “stupid”: trying to get the cat out of the power pole with a metal bar, or attempting to pass someone when it’s not safe to do so? They both are bad. What’s done more often? When it comes to preventing injuries, it helps to think about the repercussions of your actions. Before you do a task that could get you hurt, think about the injury that could result. Think about how the injury would change your life, and think about how your family would be affected if you were seriously hurt or killed. Then think again about how you will do your next task. The dangerous way, or the safe way?

Always think of the repercussions of your actions BEFORE you act!

Small falls can be a BIG deal

Nick was involved in a fall. When he fell, he landed on his face and broke his jaw and knocked out some teeth. These were the least of his concerns because the force of the fall snapped his head back in a violent manner, causing a high spinal cord injury. Nick was paralyzed from the neck down. He had the same kind of injury that well-known actor Christopher Reeve had. Nick, however, didn’t have the support or the resources that Mr. Reeve had. He didn’t handle his injury nearly as well.

I got to know Nick, not only because I treated him when he was injured, but because he was living in the same hospital where the ambulance service I worked for at the time was based. I often went to visit him in his room. He had few visitors. Once he realized he wasn’t going to get better, he called me over to him. Since he had a ventilator that did his breathing for him through a tube that went into his throat, all he could do was whisper. He looked me in the eye and said, “I wish I were dead.” That is a very heavy statement to hear someone say, especially when you know they mean it. Four years later, Nick got his wish. He died of pneumonia.

The second that Nick’s face hit the ground when he fell, his quality of life was greatly reduced. From that moment on, a good day for him was being assisted into the wheelchair from his bed by several nurses, having his breathing machine hooked up to the wheelchair, and being rolled down the hallway of the hospital for a change of scenery. In the summertime, the nurses would roll him outside for an hour or so. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t be happy with that quality of life – especially when it was 100% preventable. When Nick fell, he was in a rush. His rushing and not paying attention helped put him in the situation he found himself in. Do you know what Nick fell from to cause his horrible injury? He fell down four stairs. That’s all it took. How many times do we go up and down stairs in a day? At work, how many times do you go up and down stairs without thinking of the repercussions of a fall?

Most people think you have to fall a great distance to be seriously hurt or killed. You don’t. Just ask the thousands of people who end up like Nick every year. If a person falls from a 50 metre tower, that makes the six o’clock news. If someone falls from a two metre ladder at work or falls down a few stairs and dies or ends up with life-changing injuries, it doesn’t make the news because it wasn’t as spectacular as a 50 metre fall. I guess the newspapers don’t think it’s “newsworthy” enough.

The point is, even small falls can kill you or put you in the same condition as Nick. So here’s a tip: Never walk or step where your eyes haven’t already been.

Martin Lesperance has 22 years of experience in Emergency Services. He has treated thousands of injuries and has used these experiences to help prevent injuries. He speaks across North America to companies such as Weyerhaeuser, Bowater, Potlach Corporation and Neenah Paper. Visit his website at www.safety-speaker.com or call him at 1-888-278-8964

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