First, a little backstory on me and why I am in a position to write this for you today.
When I was 12, my brother, dad, and I had been working on the farm, digging holes for some strainer posts for a fence we were constructing. On the last hole of the day, the unthinkable happened. My shoelace got entangled in the power take-off (PTO) shaft, which immediately ripped my leg off. Fast-forwarding over some details, I spent 3.5 weeks in the hospital, recovering from my injuries. After ten days of full-time rehab, I was back up and walking, and I've never looked back. I became a world champion in waterskiing and then switched to athletics, where I won the 100m gold four times. I am a testament to a positive mindset and dedication to a goal to come from where I am now.
A large part of my life is spent presenting to audiences around the globe on resilience and workplace safety; an interesting subject. I have seen the value of discussing lived experiences to relate to people in this space. Now that it's National Safe Work Month in Australia, there's no better time to start this conversation.
So, WHY is workplace safety important to you? For reference, when I look at workplace safety, it is from the moment you walk out your front door until the moment you return. This broadens the time, but it's important to remember that this is an essential time for us to be able to do our work.
The question that I like to ask when I present, and for the most part, it's a loaded question that I know the answer to, is, whose purpose in life is to go through working 9-5, five days a week? I've only had one or two people raise their hands when I've asked this question. The reality is that most of us, whether we love or hate our job, go to work because it fulfils a need or a want. Sometimes, we lose sight of this, which means we become disconnected from WHY it's important to return home safely.
Your dad leaves you and your brother down in the paddock to dig the last part of the last hole. The next thing he sees is you flying through the paddock in a ute, only to be then informed of what has happened. Imagine being in the tractor as you hear and undoubtedly see an accident happen right in front of you. By the time you shut the tractor down and get out, you see the full extent of what has occurred. Sitting in the back of a car, you use your hands to slow the bleeding. Your brother is then stabilised and flown to Canberra, without any communication and so much unknown. Imagine being one of the sisters, fully aware that something major has happened but left in the dark about what it is and its extent. And think about your mum, tasked with retrieving the leg and protecting the family in that moment, standing by my side on the helicopter and during the first few hours of the aftermath.
When you look at my story, the "why" of workplace safety runs way more profound than it might seem. The mental trauma of the people around me still lingers and will probably never go away. I get asked time and time again if I could go back to that day, would I change it? For me, I don't think I would. My life now has challenges, without a doubt, but it's been a rewarding life up to this point. However, for everyone else, I absolutely would. If all the people around me didn't have to see, hear, and experience what they did, I would return in a heartbeat.
As humans, we are naturally selfish; I mean, it is vital for our survival, it's essential that we look after ourselves first before we can look after each other. The challenge is that sometimes, we think only about ourselves when we take risks. Speeding in a car because we are late or want to get somewhere faster are selfish. When we stop and think about the implications of our actions on others, we start to make better decisions.
My "why" is my family, particularly my son and wife. I spend a lot of time on the road, one of the riskiest places to be, so I need to be aware of the risk. The reason why we need to stay safe isn't only about us; it runs way more profound. It's not only about keeping us safe and what's important to us, but it's also about everyone you work with. If we keep them safe, they also can go home to what's important.
So, I challenge you to think about your "why." By sharing my experiences, I hope you won't have to go through the same.
To hear more from Scott, don’t forget to register for our upcoming webinar Why machinery safety matters and how to manage risk with Scott Reardon and Matthew Turner, 24th October, 2023, 2pm.