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Thursday, November 19, 2015

“I Never Thought It Would Happen To Me” / “It Happened So Fast” / “I Wish I Could Do It Over”

Statues of "The Protectors"
Those three lines: “I never thought it would happen to me, it happened so fast, and I wish I could do it over” were woven throughout a presentation by Brian Devlin. Mr. Devlin is a physical therapist and a vice president for Illinois Risk Management Services. He has worked with hundreds of public safety employees who have been injured on the job. “They all say it,” he said as he reflected on his patients speaking about what has happened to them. Why?

“I never thought it would happen to me” may be admitting that there was a denial of the hazards first responders face. When high-risk calls become routine, the recognition of the dangers can start to diminish. In his book Working Fire, The Making of a Fireman, author Zac Unger writes about a structure fire where everything went wrong, and his crew was trying to figure out what happened. A veteran firefighter told the crew that they would never master firefighting when he said, “There is no black belt in this job.”

“It happened so fast” may be the post-accident realization that when things start to go wrong, they can go wrong at a speed that cannot be reversed. There was no time to react or escape. Was it a loss of situational awareness? Or has this happened before, only more slowly—perhaps it was a near miss, and no one got hurt?

“I wish I could do it over” has a ring of sadness to it. It may be the realization that the accident has changed things forever, and they can’t go back. Injuries change people physically, personally, and professionally. They change organizations as well, and you can’t go back.

At an upcoming safety committee meeting, put these three statements on the agenda and have your committee members discuss their thoughts as to what they mean. Mr. Devlin sums it up this way: these are “real-life statements of regret after an injury.”

Up Next: The Training Safety Officer Program goes to Georgia.

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


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