It’s been 26 years since an explosion nearly killed her father, but Kayla Rath still panics at the sound of a siren.
“I always assume the worst,” says Kayla. “Every worst-case scenario is always my first thought.”
On Sept. 20, 1991, at a natural gas facility in southwest Kansas, Kayla’s father literally burst into flames. Brad Livingston was working with a welder who, ignoring safety rules, started patching a leak in a gas storage tank. It exploded, killing the welder instantly. Brad, engulfed in flames, was blown onto the roof of another storage tank, which exploded seconds later. He was still alive when he was pulled to safety, but with second-and third-degree burns to more than 60 per cent of his body, Brad had only a five per cent chance of survival.
“When I walked into his room I chose not to touch him, because I was scared of him,” Kayla recalls. “His hands and face… were all swollen and red and black.”
But Brad did survive, enduring months of agonizing skin grafts and years of rehabilitation. Kayla credits her “amazing” mother for keeping him on the road to recovery and for holding the family together.
Today, Brad is a popular motivational speaker at corporate safety seminars. His Just A Second Ago presentation is a blunt warning that lives can change instantly if workers take shortcuts, refuse to abandon “that’s the way we’ve always done it” attitudes or, as in his case, allow themselves to be intimidated by reckless colleagues.
Invited to speak alongside her father three years ago, Kayla now regularly joins his presentations. Married with five children, her message is equally blunt: anyone who ignores workplace safety is simply being selfish, because accidents “ripple” far beyond the victim.
Lives can change instantly if workers take shortcuts or refuse to abandon “that’s the way we’ve always done it” attitudes.
“Workplace safety is not just about you. It’s about your child, your mom, your brother,” she says. ”Friends are the ripples, children are the ripples.”
“Children expect their parents to come home safely from work,” adds Kayla. “When that doesn’t happen, their lives are changed forever.”
Energy Safety Canada is pleased to host Kayla Rath as a keynote presenter at the 67th annual Petroleum Safety Conference, May 1-3, 2018 at the Banff Springs Hotel.
Hear Kayla’s story on Wednesday, May 2, 2018, from 3:30 PM – 4:30 PM.
*Special Queue Jumper pricing until February 19, 2018. Register early for best pricing.
Ripple Effect originally published in Frontline – Safety in Action, Fall 2017.