Eye-opening lesson on workplace safety for Okanagan students

A B.C. man injured on the job shares the lesson he learned the hard way with Okanagan students to prevent others from being hurt

Nick Perry walks with a brace on his left leg. It serves as a lifelong reminder of a workplace accident he was involved in more than 15 years ago.

Perry was working at a Victoria lumberyard when 42 loose sheets of fibre board weighing 1,200 kilograms fell on top of him, leaving him with a severely-severed spinal cord.

“[The accident] folded me in half so basically it knocked me over, pressed me down so my ears were touching my knees in between my legs,” said Perry, who was 19 years old at the time of the accident.

“I lost all feeling from my belly button down.”

Perry blames the accident on limited training and a lack of supervision. Now 35, he travels across Canada sharing his story with high school students and teaching them about the importance of workplace safety.

“I think it is a good place to start,” Perry said. “At 15, 16 years old, they are just getting into the workforce so we are being proactive about safety.”

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Perry spent Tuesday at Rutland Senior Secondary talking to a Grade 11 planning class. His message to students is to speak up, ask your employer questions and get familiar with a job before starting to do things on their own.

“Sometimes a young worker will feel intimidated because the employment is such that either their co-workers may have a lot more experience or the employer is in business for a long time so they are not always apt to come forward,” Perry said.

According to WorkSafeBC, young people between the ages of 15 and 24 are at the highest risk for workplace injuries. Every year, hundreds of young British Columbians are injured on the job. In 2016, five young people died in work-related accidents. The sectors with the highest risk for serious injuries include service (29 per cent) and construction (29 per cent) followed by manufacturing (17 per cent) and the trade sector (12 per cent).