How Workplace Injuries Affect the Family

Originally published by: EHS TodayNovember 7, 2019

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Editor’s Note: Before someone on your jobsite becomes an unfortunate statistic, take a few minutes to consider FrameSAFE. This comprehensive, bilingual safety program developed by the National Framers Council is based on OSHA 1926 and includes a safety manual template, site-specific fall protection plan template, Toolbox Talks, safety posters and other training materials.

When strained, relationships are like a rubber band. They stretch until the snap.

Lee Shelby told attendees of the 2019 Safety Leadership Conference about the workplace accident that changed his and his family's lives.

Lee Shelby speaking at the 2019 Safety Leadership Conference

“All [children] know is that their mom and dad walked out of the house and came back home, and they weren’t the same...Families will remember this for the rest of their lives," the former power lineman explained.

On August 12, 1991, Shelby was working for a utility company in Memphis, Tenn. He had just left a safety meeting and set out to work on distribution power lines. Shortly after, a line Shelby cut made contact with his body, causing 13,000 volts of electricity to enter his body.

"If you can imagine what it was like, it was chaos," he said. "At the blink of an eye, all it took was a split second for that accident to happen."

Shelby's coworkers rushed to save his life, which had been altered at that time forever. The decision he made to not wear rubber gloves and to use a shortcut, or to break a safety rule, cost him his hands. The lineman had six surgeries in five days. Participating in occupational therapy to relearn essential functions was his new job. He was now a bilateral below-the-elbow amputee.

For that point on, Shelby would never be able to feel his wife's face. His daughter never knew her father with hands and faced questions from kids at school. 

"I gave [my hands] up because I made a conscious decision to break a safety rule," he said. 

A group of employees in safety hats and high visibility clothing, encourage a culture of safety with FrameSafe

Safety leaders need to educate workers to understand the impact of workplace injuries and why they need to do it themselves because safety leaders cannot be standing over their shoulders. It's about making employees listen for the right reasons and committing to participating in safe practices no matter what.

Families don't ask for the additional responsibilities that come with an injured or disabled worker. Shelby told the audience that it's unfair to them and the effects of a workplace injury should not be thrown on children.

"I never want to see this happen to another person," Shelby said.


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