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Injury drives home importance of worksite safety

In early May, while working at the Rosemont Convention Center, I attempted to move some equipment I needed for a job I was doing. It fell over on to top of me, causing a severe crushing injury to my foot. This started a chain of events I’d never experienced before and was a truly eye-opening development.

I was taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital where I was treated for my injuries. I had never been injured at work or even been in an ambulance for that matter, and like many things in life, it was a learning experience. I was taken to the emergency room, which wasn’t very busy at the time. The first person I met at the hospital was a representative of the billing department who was more concerned about how I would pay the bill rather than my well-being. The medical staff stood by, waiting for the go-ahead from this administrator before they could attend to my injuries. They seemed almost annoyed by his presence.

In fairness to the hospital, the economic realities of the American health care system force them into this. I’m sure if I had a life-threatening condition they would have begun working on me immediately. After they determined it was a workplace injury from a well-known business in the area with adequate insurance and they received the proper contact information, the medical treatment began. The medical staffers were very professional and seemed concerned about my comfort and pain level. It was striking contrast between the compassion of the medical staff and the insensitive, obsessive mindset of the hospital bureaucrat.

They conducted all of the appropriate tests and determined that I could be released later that same day. So, they put a splint on the injured area, loaded me up with powerful narcotic painkillers, put me on crutches and gave me instructions to visit my doctor within the next day or two. The follow-up visit with my doctor was more detailed and showed I had a severe crushing injury with no broken bones, and he informed it would be a while before I could return to the condition I was in before the accident happened.

When people hear nothing was broken, they seem to dismiss this type of injury as one that is minor in nature and more inconvenient than anything else. I assure you, having 500 pounds of metal fall on your foot isn’t simply a minor inconvenience. But my doctor says soft tissue injuries of this nature can often be worse than a broken bone. With a break, the bone heals and it’s over. But with a soft tissue injury, problems can linger for a long time and can result in chronic pain if not properly treated. It was painful and has resulted in significant disruption to my life, but I try to find something positive in even the worst of situations.

The lessons I took from this are significant and far-reaching. To begin with, you never, ever should take good health for granted. With an injury like this, even walking across the room becomes a challenging task. And taking a shower can become a complicated process which involves a lot of preparation and forethought.

While there was significant pain and my life was thrown into disarray, I chose not to sue my employer. I’m glad the legal option exists to “encourage” companies to do the right thing. But I feel there are far too many lawsuits, and as long as my bills are paid, that’s enough for me.

I was disappointed, however, to find I was only paid until the moment the injury occurred, and I was told by my union hall they were within their rights to do that. But I felt it was a callous and insensitive example of how to treat someone who was injured after 36 years of diligent service. I don’t think I’ll ever have quite the same respect for Rosemont Exposition Services that I once had. I guess this was just another lesson I learned from this incident. 

I also learned how things can change in an instant. One moment you’re going about your daily routine, and the next you’re writhing in pain while being carted off in an ambulance to the hospital. The human body is a very complex machine with thousands of things that can go wrong. It’s only when something bad happens that we realize the importance of things we took for granted only moments earlier.

With all of the machines and activity which goes on at every tradeshow, I’m surprised we maintain the safety record that we have. While I was following all proper procedures and there was nothing I could have done to prevent this accident, it still happened. Yet, I see people taking chances on the show floor to save time and cut costs. But it’s not worth the risk of getting injured. Remember: You only have one body to last you for the rest of your life. Take care of it so you can enjoy the quality of life to which you are entitled.

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