Safety on the site: when things go wrong

Construction SafetyWarning: The following piece contains graphic descriptions of a workplace injury that some readers may find disturbing.

Employing around 2.2 million people, the construction industry is one of the largest employment sectors in the UK. However, as our shocking construction statistics infographic shows, the industry is also responsible for a disproportionate number of accidents, injuries and fatalities.

For Mick Loughran, an apprentice bricklayer in County Durham, May 6, 1983 was just an ordinary day… until things went badly wrong.

“It was a Friday, and as I made my way to work that morning I was looking forward to the weekend. Once I arrived on the site, I was sent to start the cement mixer and mix the first batch of cement for the day. During the process, a small rag of cement bag got snagged in the mixing fin inside the machine. Without a second thought, I did what I had done countless times before… I put my hand into the machine to get it out. Only this time I made a mistake.”

Agony

“Somehow, I had managed to mis-time it, and my hand was immediately trapped in the moving machine. The mixer kept on turning. Even though I was a young, powerful man, there was nothing I could do to free myself. I screamed for help, but none came. The next thing I knew, my two forearm bones were being violently dislocated from my elbow joint, ripping the skin like paper. The pain was unbearable.”

Eventually the mixer was turned off by a colleague and Mick was rushed to a local hospital.

Long road to recovery

“After spending the day in surgery I was told that the next 48 hours would be critical, as they had to decide whether or not to amputate my arm. I spent the next six weeks in hospital being operated on 12 more times and, thanks to the hard work of the doctors and nurses, my arm was saved.”

Following his time in hospital, Mick was sent to The Hermitage Rehabilitation Centre where he underwent intensive physiotherapy and occupational therapy.

“I spent my time there learning to tie my shoe laces and turn keys in locks, buttoning up shirts and learning to wash myself. It was like being a child again. At times I found it so frustrating that I would slip away to the toilets and cry.

“Fortunately my family and friends rallied around and got me through some really dark times and, after a year, I was well enough to go back to work.”

Moving on  

“It is 30 years since my accident and I now am a very happy and content husband and father to three magnificent children. However, my accident had a permanent and irreversible impact on my life – I was forced to find new ways to do everyday tasks. Every day I am faced with new challenges that remind me of the day I got it wrong.”

Culture change

Since recovering from his accident, Mick has dedicated his life to challenging the dangerous cultures and behaviours he still believes exist in the construction industry.

“I’m still shocked by some of the things I hear on the site. People always say ‘it will never happen to me’, but my experience has taught me that accidents CAN and DO happen. It is my passion to pass on the message that bad practices must be challenged and reported. If you see something dangerous, please, please, please tell someone. It is vital that we stop passing down dangerous shortcuts and bad practice to the younger generation.”

Mick Loughran is a construction foreman with 34 years experience in the construction industry. He is also a hazard and risk perception coach, offering workshops and mentoring to ‘at risk’ groups and inexperienced operatives. For more information or to organise a workshop please email him directly or visit his website: http://www.mjlwes.co.uk

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5 thoughts on “Safety on the site: when things go wrong

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  1. Mick, recently visited our construction site, and gave his message over 3 days to 1500 workers. His communication to the workers is honest and pulls no punches. He is a very likeable guy and the workforce can relate to him. Construction Safety culture is changing – slowly -, but with the Mick’s of this world the transition is helped along. If your project is looking for some safety motivation, Strongly recommend hiring Mick. Thanks

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