Jason Anker was paralysed from the waist down due to an avoidable incident on a construction site in 1993 when he fell off a ladder. He was 24 years old.
For 16 years he was unable to talk openly about his experience of the work-related, major incident. Then a chance meeting with a safety expert changed everything. Since then he has been talking to industry about all of his experiences of living as a paraplegic.
Ahead of his talk at Safety & Health Expo he discusses how he hopes to raise awareness of workplace safety and improve conditions for workers.
For reader that may not know, could you briefly tell us what happened to you?
On Jan 3rd 1993 I fell 10′ from a ladder while working for my father-in-law’s roofing company. We were trying to get a rush job finished before we ran out of daylight. The job should have taken at least two hours but we were asked if we could do it in one.
Could your accident have been prevented?
Totally, we should have just spoken up and told the supervisor the job couldn’t be done safely within the desired time constraints. I also could have raised my concerns to my supervisor but I chose to say nothing, partly out of embarrassment and fear of losing my job.
What was your mental state like at the time?
I thought I was OK but on reflection I had turned up for work that morning still a little worse for wear as I had been at a party the night before until the early hours. It must have been noticeable to my boss and supervisor I was unfit for work.
How long did it take you to adjust to your physical condition, after your accident?
A very long time. I really struggled from leaving the rehab centre, my young marriage quickly broke down and my wife left, taking my two young children. My life descended into drinking to excess and then drug taking, which culminated in an unintentional drug overdose in January 1995 which left me on a life support machine in an induced coma for 17 days and a 5 month stay in hospital.
What happened to the people in charge of the worksite where the accident happen?
Nothing legally as the case was very complex, but the school we were working on never opened as a direct result of my accident and my perusal of my compensation claim.
It took you 16 years to begin talking about your experience. What made you decide to start sharing your story?
A chance meeting with Dan Terry, a behavioural safety consultant who told me my story was important and needed to be shared.
Could you give us a preview as to what you’ll be talking about at the Safety & Health Expo?
The Expo gives me a chance to talk about Proud2bSafe and all that’s happening within our company, our new film and our P2BS Academy where we hope to help other injured workers develop their own stories to take back into their own workplaces.
How important is talking about the risks and consequences of major workplace accidents like yours?
It has been life changing for me personally and helps me by sharing my story. If I could stop just one accident then all the travelling up and down the country delivering our presentations would be worthwhile. People’s belief is still it’s never going to happen to them.
In your opinion, have employers done enough to improve health and safety standards?
No, we can never be satisfied we have done enough while we are still killing or injuring people at work. I’m not a massive fan of achieving milestones i.e. a million man hours without incident as I believe it drives accidents underground, especially when there is an opportunity to learn valuable lessons.
What simple changes can employers make to help better protect their employees?
Being Proud2bSafe and committing to speaking up and raising safety concerns.
If you and your team want to be inspired by Jason Anker, make sure you attend his session at Safety & Health Expo 2017. Register now for free