by Steph Troughton
When you are 18, high school graduation parties and travel and post-secondary aspirations are often on the list for planning one’s life.
But for Mission resident Michael Lovett, a life-altering workplace accident changed all that.
Wrestling and playing soccer at the time, with hopes of paying off his recently purchased truck, Lovett figured a sawmill job would provide him with the funds he needed and the ability to appease his mom, who was concerned he was not working.
The same day he applied to work at the local family-owned sawmill, Lovett was hired. Armed with only a few minutes training, Lovett said he was thrown into unsupervised entry-level mill duties that were not always safe. Young and eager to please, he explained to students at Panorama Secondary in Surrey Tuesday, he didn’t feel comfortable refusing work or asking more questions.
“You know what it would have taken for me to have two legs today? A two-second timeout,” he told the attentive students.
Lovett lost his left shin while he was working a graveyard shift and trying to clean one of the mill’s machines. His boot got stuck in a conveyor belt which began dragging his body into the moving machinery.
Though his leg was crushed, resulting in nine surgeries, 12 units of blood transfusions, a month’s stay in Royal Columbian Hospital and extensive physiotherapy, Lovett remains grateful.
“It could have been so much worse. I could have – probably should have – died.”
Sponsored by WorkSafe BC, Lovett has been telling his story to high school students and workers across Canada and in the U.S. He estimates in his 10 years presenting, he has given as many as 1,000 presentations to more than 50,000 sets of ears. Asked what he hopes his listeners get from his talk, he replies,”Mostly I just want kids to make informed decisions in the workplace and know their rights.”
He also warns them to look out for themselves:
“Work is not like school. Nobody is watching out for you like your teachers did.”
Now 33, Lovett has learned to live with his artificial leg, which has been replaced more than a dozen times. He can’t do the things he was passionate about in his youth but still tries to stay active. He often can be seen on the golf course and belongs to a pool league. And he loves to start his day “bugging one of my three cats.”
Chronic pain is now Lovett’s reality.
“I don’t take pain meds,” he smiles “I’ve had this injury long enough that I know, if I’m in pain, I just take my leg off and relax.”
This week Lovett also spoke at Kwantlen Park Secondary and Sullivan Heights Secondary.
Youth Workplace Accident Statistics for B.C.
• Youth are at a higher risk for injury than workers in any other age group.
• Males under the age of 25 are at the highest risk for a workplace injury.
• Three out of every four work claims are for young males.
• More than half of workplace accidents involve workers aged 15-24.
• Every hour, one young worker is hurt on the job.
• 21 workers are hurt on the job daily.
For more information on youth workplace accidents, visit: http://www2.worksafebc.com/Topics/YoungWorker/Home.asp