This is the second post in our Human side of safety series, and this week we hear from Wendy Ellen-Nittel whose 23-year old son, Blaine, was killed transporting a service rig.
Blaine was moving the service rig along a treacherous highway with no shoulder and very steep ditches. Somehow, on this busy road where truckers and school buses compete for space, Blaine’s truck veered off toward the ditch. He tried to correct and come out, but the pump truck rolled and Blaine was crushed. His co-workers desperately tried to rescue their colleague, but there was nothing that could be done to save him.
Now, like any family that loses a loved one, Blaine’s parents, brother and sister have to live with the devastating loss every day. The boy who was planning to come home and take over the family farm is gone, all too soon. But on top of that, they also have to live with the questions: “we don’t know why he went into the ditch,” said Wendy. “He had a new iPhone, and the autopsy later showed an imprint of the phone on his side. There was candy and pop in his truck, so was he reaching for something? Did he take his eye off the road? We don’t know. It’s a question that will never be answered for his parents, family and friends.”
What we do know is that a momentary lapse in attention or judgement can be disastrous. And when you’re working with any kind of heavy vehicle or machinery the dangers are even greater.
What can we learn from this tragic incident?
When we consider Blaine’s story it reminds us how important it is to have a strict road safety policy for all employees who are driving for their job.
The company Blaine was working for changed several safety policies after the accident, including the instigation of a rule forbidding drivers to have personal cellphones. Their move to tighten policies which were already well within regulatory requirements was an excellent reaction, but unfortunately too late for Blaine.
Since losing Blaine, Wendy has devoted herself to creating awareness about workplace safety. She volunteers with Threads of Life, sharing her story and speaking with people about staying safe on the job.
When asked what advice she can offer to others, she said:
“Go above and beyond the safety requirements of your job. Your family wants you back at the end of the day.”
Driver training and safety awareness
Incident’s like Blaine’s are preventable, and a road safety program is a must for any company that has employees on the road. You can learn more about it in this blog post: How to keep workers safe on the road.
To read more stories from people who have lost loved ones, or experienced a workplace accident themselves, check out these other blog posts: