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Why My Attitude Towards Safety Shifted

Paul Carson with a team from VISY
Paul climbing the reservoir wall

Safety is central to everything in your life – if you are not safe then nothing else matters.

Everything changed for me in the space of two seconds, and I don’t just mean my physical wellbeing.  The relationships I had with family, friends and my partner; my career and future job prospects, my living conditions and requirements, and my financial security.  Workers compensation took over 4 years to settle during which time I virtually lost everything as I had no income.  All of the things I value most in my life were impacted by my attitude and behaviour towards safety.

I was a site supervisor working for a company that built large water reservoirs.  The sites are generally remote and commonly we had to cut roads into the sites before commencing excavations and construction.  The 29th July 2003 should have been like any other day, but it is a day where I went to work and didn’t come home for four and a half months.

It has taken me many years and much analysis and reflection through my role with PBF Australia as an Injury Prevention Workplace presenter, to conclude that what happened to me was not the result of an isolated event.  It was caused by a series of events over a long period of time.  Faulty machinery not reported, procedures and rules not followed, short cuts taken to save time, but most importantly my attitude towards my own safety and that of my work colleagues.  The culmination of all these events resulted in 480kg of bolts coming crashing down on the back of my shoulders leaving me a Level 2 incomplete paraplegic at 35 years of age.

It is not easy reliving that day. Over time breaking apart the key factors in the chain reaction that impacted my life forever.  So why do I do it?  By sharing something that is so personal to me it has the potential of influencing someone else and possibly preventing them from suffering the same fate.  John Holland, VISY and Noosa Council are a few of the organisations I have presented the PBF Australia Supervisors Intervention Program to.  These companies recognise that safety is more than policies and procedures.

I know why workplace safety is vital because I live with the consequences of being blasé about safety.  In fact looking back on my role as a supervisor I now recognise that workplace safety is multidimensional, and central to this is the role that supervisors and foremen like me have in setting a safety culture.

Every year 350 to 400 people in Australia suffer a spinal cord injury.  Others are killed and never come home.

If you can see value in having someone like me talk to your employees to get them engaged in the importance of their own personal safety, then please book an Injury Prevention Presentation this year.

Paul Carson – PBF Injury Prevention Workplace Presenter

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