At the recent National Safety Council Congress and Expo in Florida, Eric Guigere shared the gripping account of how 10 minutes in the bottom of a trench changed his life. In 2002, he was 27 years old and newly married - and perhaps in a bit of a hurry because he was scheduled to fly to a Caribbean honeymoon after work. But all that changed in an instant when he found himself buried in a trench collapse. He describes the harrowing experience before he blacked out - one of mankind's most deep-seated and primal fears becoming a reality. His coworkers pulled his lifeless body from the trench about 10 minutes later. At the time, his survival was in doubt, but he not only lived, he walked out of the hospital within about a week.
But that was not the end of things, by any means. Guigere talks about the lingering effects that the trauma had on his life - night terrors, lack of sleep, stress, and general PTSD experiences that eventually led to the break-up of his marriage. He also talks about the terrible effects that the experience had on his coworkers.
Guigere takes full responsibility for his own actions. His message is to the workers: "Don't take shortcuts. Respect safety requirements. Don't make a choice that could put yourself, your coworkers and your family in life-altering situations."
We aren't as inclined to let the employer off the hook as lightly as he does. The employer had six prior OSHA citations for safety violations and deceitfully tried to cover up their lack of compliance after the accident. The employer incurred a $54,000 wilful violation from this offense. While we're big believers in behavior-based safety, we think that all parties have responsibilities in creating an injury-free workplace. James Loud raises this point in his essay Too much emphasis on behavior-based safety? We agree with his assertion that "safety is a line management responsibility" and his prescription of management walkarounds, which he describes as "routine manager/employee safety interactions." He offers a roster of best practice "rules" for safety walkarounds gleaned from his 20 years of studying such programs at large organizations.
Eric Guigere now makes his living as a safety motivational speaker - you can see a brief clip below. If you're looking for a motivational speaker to talk to your employees, his story appears compelling.
Related prior posts:
- "An unprotected trench is an open grave"
- It's spring ... and the start of trench death season
- Buried alive
- When Workers Die