Richmond students get job safety warning

WorkSafeBC ambassador talked to teenagers about getting trapped in a roller while on the job and almost losing his arm

With spring traditionally being the time that high school students start thinking about summer jobs, some Richmond teenagers were given a first-hand account of the dangers.

As part of WorkSafeBC’s Young Worker Speaker Program, students at Steveston-London met face-to-face on Friday with 31-year-old Mark Johnson, who became trapped in a moving roller while he was cleaning a conveyor belt more than 10 years ago.

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Johnson told the students that he knew his co-workers wouldn’t be able to hear his cries for help over the noise of the machines at the Maple Ridge sawmill where he worked.

“After about 20 minutes, I almost passed out from blood loss,” said Johnson.

“I knew I’d die if somebody didn’t help me, so I threw up a prayer to God.”

Miraculously, the conveyor belt stopped, though no one had touched it, and his co-workers immediately sawed off the belt and unbolted the roller that had entangled his arm. 

Johnson was fortunate to survive the incident and doctors considered amputating his arm.

But he fought to keep it and today has enough shoulder function to tuck it behind his back.

Johnson was sharing his survival story as part of the WorkSafeBC program for the past six years, speaking at schools and workplaces throughout the province.

And after years of sitting on the sidelines, he’s now back doing many of the things he loves.

“I’m back to snowboarding and slo-pitch baseball,” he said.

“I coach the team and can bat one-handed, hit the ball pretty far, catch with my right arm, and run really fast.” 

Whether you’re young or old, added Johnson, “the same thing applies to all workers — what counts most on the job is staying safe and getting home in one piece.”

WorkSafeBC continues to focus accident prevention efforts on young workers — concentrating on industries that pose the highest risk to youth — while partnering with employer associations, organized labour, government, parents, community groups and employment centres.

According to WorkSafeBC, over the five year period from 2011 to 2015:
z The young worker injury rate for male workers declined in 2015 but remains above the provincial average at three claims per 100 workers as compared to 2.3 for all young workers;
z Sectors with the highest risk for serious injuries were: service sector (29 per cent), construction (29 per cent), manufacturing (17 per cent) and trade (12 per cent).
z The greatest number of time-loss claims by young workers was due to over-exertion, being struck by or against objects, and falls.

Here are the top seven hazards that lead to the largest number of injuries for young workers in B.C. and the jobs involved:

1. Lifting objects — overexertion causing sprains, strains, tears: Retail and grocery clerks, labourers, material handlers, shippers and receivers;

2. Working on elevated levels — sprains, strains, tears, and fractures: Any job using ladders, stairs, scaffolding, or other raised areas;

3. Working with knives — cuts and lacerations: Cooks, food service workers, retail clerks, and shelf-stockers.

4. Working with hot substances/objects — burns: Jobs in the hospitality and food service industries.

5. Using mobile equipment or motor vehicles — sprains, strains, tears, and fractures: Any job requiring driving, riding, or operating, or any job that requires operating near mobile equipment.

6. Working with food slicers — cuts and lacerations: Deli sales clerks, cooks, food service workers, and retail sales clerks in supermarkets.

7. Working near running equipment or machinery — cuts, lacerations, and fractures: Labourers in manufacturing or construction, machine operators, material handlers, bakers and cooks.

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