Charlie Morecraft and Shirley Hickman have emerged from personal tragedies to share their inspirational journeys of recovery and advocacy with delegates at The Safety Conference this week.
The Safety Conference hosted by The Safety Institute of Australia and organised by Australian Exhibitions & Conferences from October 26 to 28, has invited the two international speakers to discuss how they have used their personal experiences to raise safety awareness.
Ahead of her address to The Safety Conference, Ms Hickman said it was essential to challenge the belief that ‘it could never happen to me’.
She believes education is the key to the awareness and change. Using personal testimony from ‘real’ people in health and safety campaigns as well as health and safety training events is effective and powerful.
Charlie Morecraft knows the danger of complacency first-hand. Though aware of all the safety regulations, a shortcut he took on a routine maintenance task while working a night shift at a New Jersey refinery went wrong and changed his life forever.
An explosion burned more than 50 per cent of his body and he took years to recover – a slow recovery process that also cost him his family.
Ms Hickman said Mr Morecraft's experience of family breakdown was common.
Consequences include psychiatric problems, stress-related physical health problems, substance abuse, family stress, marital breakdown, suicide, loss of productivity, loss of personal income, increased social welfare costs and more.
Ms Hickman says this is a substantial and costly burden for every citizen and taxpayer, but one that can be significantly reduced.
Threads of Life, a charity co-founded by Ms Hickman helps Canadian families who have been affected by a workplace tragedy, life-altering injury or occupational disease. It helps more than 1,200 family members through one-on-one peer support, links to other community support services and the opportunity to take action to help prevent similar tragedies to other families.
The two speakers were asked what three messages they would like to leave with OHS professionals attending The Safety Conference.
For Mr Morecraft, they were:
- Safety is personal
- Accidents don’t just happen to the other guy
- Have the guts to speak up or intervene when you see someone doing something unsafe
Ms Hickman nominated five:
- Workplace safety is everyone’s responsibility: employers must provide a safe workplace and workers need to work safely
- Co-workers must ensure that they are working safely and speak up if they see someone who doesn’t. It takes less than a minute for lives to be forever changed
- Everyone has the right to expect their family members to come home at the end of the day safe and sound
- Family members living with the outcomes of workplace tragedies can be part of the prevention message
- Education has to start with students in schools, messages shared at home as well as modelling by parents and co-workers
Shirley Hickman and Charlie Morecraft will be among 70 speakers at The Safety Conference presented by the Safety Institute of Australia at the Sydney Showground, Sydney Olympic Park from October 26 to 28.