Do the Right Thing
By Jennifer Wolery | Corporate Safety Director
“Oh my God Mom, we’re dying – I think Maranda’s dead!”
The voice on the phone was in anguished pain and panicked hysteria. I didn’t think it was real at first – they had just left my house less than 15 minutes prior after a wonderful family summer cookout in the country. Some of my guests still lingered around the backyard under the huge trees that backed down to a wide and deep running creek in the far distance. The stars were out. People were laughing and relaxed. Within seconds I realized it was all too real.
“Where are you? Hold on – I’m on my way!” I left my guests and had my oldest daughter drive me to the scene as I tried to keep my son on the line and talking. The panic in his voice was frightening, but hearing his voice let me know he was still breathing even if he was hurt – and then he fell silent. I felt completely helpless in that moment. Terrifyingly, I could still hear background noises – I thought he was dead – and then the connection was broken.
Speeding down the highway, I called for help from my former place of work that had instant access to multiple jurisdictions of police, fire, rescue, and EMS. As my daughter approached the scene in her SUV, I had her pull well off the shoulder and park about 50 yards away from the twisted heaps of metal and broken glass. The light from her headlights allowed me to take in what had happened and what was left of the vehicles involved in a high-speed head-on collision.
“Do NOT leave this car under any circumstances – stay put!” I barked at her. As I approached the scene and prepared to perform an assessment of my son and daughter-in-law, my brain changed gears and I wasn’t “Mom” anymore.
Over twenty-five years of training, teaching, coaching, and hands-on experience was not – could not – ever be enough to prepare for the life-changes we were all facing together as a family. These changes occurred as the result of a single accident – but this accident could have been prevented. It didn’t have to happen. It was a result of a series of choices by the person who caused it – a person who didn’t do the right things when he had the chance, and ended up changing his own life in addition to the lives of everyone he touched that night – which included my son and his bride, and their entire family and social circle.
Accidents cause lives to change in an instant. Most incidents we call accidents are preventable.
According to OSHA, there were over 2.8 million non-fatal recordable workplace injuries and illnesses reported in the United States during 2019. OSHA also reports that same year saw 5,333 fatal workplace injuries and illnesses. When I look at these numbers it could be very easy to not take in the full impact of what these numbers mean. Although we can quantify the cost in dollars to businesses in lost time, lost production, increased insurance premiums and the rising price of medical treatments, and industry experts can look at and compare experience modification ratings and many other metrics when it comes to these incidents, there is more lost than the reports indicate. What’s missing from the reports are the people and their stories.
People are lost and friends and families torn apart and tested to their limits. With their health impacted, dreams shattered, and potential for destruction of finances both in the short and long term for accident victims and their families, each of those injuries and fatalities represent real people. Nothing that happens to us happens in a vacuum; there are ripples of cause and effect that impact accident victims and their families that may continue for generations.
I’ve been working in the field of Safety and Public Safety for over 30 years. I’ve never met an accident victim who planned on being hurt when they woke up that morning. It’s most often an unwelcome surprise that in many instances could have been prevented by someone involved with the situation making different choices, by slowing down, and by taking simple precautions. I’m asking you to protect yourself, your health, future, and finances. Protect your co-workers, families, friends, and community from the fallout of what choices you make and actions you take. Do the right thing – be safe.