A Greater Manchester building contractor has invited an accident victim to get a hard-hitting safety message across to construction workers.
R & M Developments, one of the North-West’s leading contractors, invited Dylan Skelhorn, a roofer who fell 33ft onto a brick wall below and from safety education organisation Proud2beSafe, to talk to their 120 employees about his terrible experience, which left him lucky to be alive.
The event was supported by key clients of R & M Developments – Manchester Airports Group, Willmott Dixon Construction and Kier Construction – who also contributed as part of an ongoing commitment to a safer supply chain.
Thomas McKenna, Director of R & M Developments said ‘the day was deliberately designed to ‘shock and awe’.
“We wanted it to support why our health and safety controls exist, how important it is to work safe and if you don’t what can happen.”
Former chimney sweep Dylan, was working on a chimney in June 2011 when he slipped, fell over 30ft and landed on a brick wall below, breaking ribs which punctured his lung and fractured his pelvis in two places. He is now 40% disabled and in constant pain and told of his ordeal, ruefully ending his talk by locking the safety harness that should have been in place on the day to his crutches.
“My boss did not care about health and safety,” he said. “In fact he even faked HSE documents saying we had special dispensation to work at height. I did not think for myself that day – I should never have taken that risk.”
Tom Milne, Capital Delivery Director from Manchester Airport Group, said there were learnings for guys on construction sites. He said:
“If things don’t feel right then take five minutes to stand back and put your finger on what it is that is wrong. It could save a life.”
He also said issues should be pointed out to bosses by workers on the ground. “Guys should interact with customers on site visits and walk arounds and not to be frightened of discussing problems with ‘the suits’.”
Mike Lane, a Director at Willmott Dixon Construction, talked about the perception of risk lessening as you get used to something.
“If you have worked with the same machinery every day for two years you can become a bit immune to its dangers.” He called for individuals to feel empowered to show leadership when it came to safety. “There is an obligation to look after yourself and others and having the confidence to ask – does that look right?”
Once physically active in and out of work Dylan had to battle for two and half years to get a compensation deal, which amounts to just over £6K a year for the rest of his working life. “Not really enough to live on,” he said.
According to Proud2beSafe around 100 workers a year have accidents serious enough to make them wheelchair bound, adversely affecting, on average, over 40 other people – family, colleagues and friends.
Janie Howarth, who is a Concrete Finisher at R & M Developments, said of the day: “It really made me think, not just about myself and fellow workers, but of the effects of accidents on people at home.”