The home truth about an accident

It only takes a split-second for your life to be turned inside out. But an accident’s an accident wherever it happens. Should we really be clocking out of safety when we leave work?

Mike Ford started work at Kellogg’s Manufacturing Plant in Wrexham straight from school and he is well-known and well liked there. So the effects of the accident which punched a hole in his spine reverberated around the factory.

“People’s reaction was phenomenal,” says Mike. “I’ve grown up here from school and they could see the emotional impact of the accident. They can seen how being in constant pain drains me.”

Mike Ford

The causes of Mike’s accident are clear. He was working on a long ladder that wasn’t secured. He was wearing no harness. He was behind schedule, so he was rushing. And he’d only had four hours sleep the night before, so he was tired.

If you’re wondering how such basic safety mistakes could have been made at a factory with excellent safety record — they weren’t. Mike’s accident happened outside work hours when he was removing branches from a tree for a neighbour.

“At work, I would have done everything right,” Mike explains. “But at home, you feel sort of untouchable. You forget about the safety side.”

The last branch Mike was removing catapulted him off the ladder and to the ground. When he came to, he couldn’t feel anything and feared the worst. At Wrexham Hospital they discovered Mike had broken a number of vertebrae and warned him he may be spending the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

“It was a horrendous shock,” he says. “I had a lot of time to think and I knew I couldn’t have gone on in a wheelchair.”

Mike was moved to Gobowen Orthopedic Hospital and six weeks later felt the first movement in his toe. After 10 weeks he made his first attempt to stand up. He stood for only a few seconds but this meant it was possible he might walk again. And through sheer determination eventually he did walk again. Twelve months later he was back at work. But it wasn’t the same.

An accident in the garden can have huge consequences for your working life

An accident in the garden can have huge consequences for your working life

“I still have little feeling my legs, so I couldn’t go back to he job I was trained to do,” Mike says. “You don’t think about the consequences of an accident outside of work. You end up with no job security because it wasn’t your employer’s responsibility. Thankfully Kellogg’s have been very good to me.”

Mike is back in Kellogg’s maintenance department working in Continuous Improvement and managing contractors. He also takes a role in improving safety.

Mike also gives talks both inside the company and elsewhere about his accident and its consequences.

“I talk about my accident,” Mike says, “but I’m not preaching health and safety. I want people to realise what can happen in a split second. There is a lot of reading and ticking boxes in health and safety at work but I want to get people thinking — taking responsibility for themselves.”

This has been Mike’s own lesson. It doesn’t matter where an accident happens, the results are devastating for you, your family, your work colleagues and (even if you have an accident at home) your employer.

“You don’t think about the consequences of an accident outside of work. You end up with no job security because it wasn’t your employer’s responsibility

One of the positive things to come out of Mike’s tragedy was an idea to get people thinking about safety before they do any job. Mike has developed what he calls a “1 minute risk assessment”. It is a pocket-sized card with visual reminders of the consequences of an accident and a checklist that can be used to think about the safety implications of any job. Importantly, it is equally useful at work and for doing jobs around the house or in the garden.

“The message is: don’t risk everything for the sake of a minute,” says Mike.

If you are interested in finding out more about Mike’s 1 Minute Risk Assessment, or in hearing him talk about he consequences of his accident, you can get in touch with him on +44 7815 078 648 or email mike.ford@kelloggs.com

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