A call to prioritise safety over speed
Paralympic weightlifting champion Kahi Puru, lost his leg in a workplace accident in 1993.
He recently shared his story with more than 50 civil contractors at the Institute of Civil Infrastructure (ICI) Constructing our Industry’s Future conference to drive home the importance of workplace health and safety.
Kahi was coming to the end of a 13-hour shift driving an industrial vacuum truck when he stepped off the back of the truck and was struck by a forklift. When he woke up in hospital two weeks later, Kahi’s left leg had been removed at the hip.
Kahi is now a member of the icare Paralympic Speakers Program, where he visits workplaces around NSW to help support a culture of safety at work and prevent workplace injuries.
“When I was injured, safety wasn’t monitored to the same standards as they are today – but even now, while there is often a focus on safety training when you first start a job, once you’re out there you can switch off and make mistakes,” says Kahi.
“Especially for contractors, the priority is often speed, not safety.
“If by sharing my story, I can make safety more real for people – help them to understand the consequences of being complacent about safety – and as a result, prevent just one workplace injury, that’s worth its weight in gold,” says Kahi.
The ‘Constructing our Industry’s Future’ conference series is a collaboration between ICI and Civil Contractors Federation NSW. David Castledine, CEO of the Civil Contractors Federation, said the purpose of the health and safety conference was to explore the future of keeping workers safe and healthy in the inherently high-risk, fast growing civil infrastructure industry.
“Kahi is an amazing man whose story really highlighted the importance of making safety a priority in the workplace; particularly in high-risk industries like the one we represent,” Mr Castledine said.
“The conference was about highlighting the current trends of workplace injuries in the civil industry and identifying a course of action for changing attitudes to WHS across the board. Kahi’s address was instrumental in shifting this focus and the feedback from the crowd was extremely positive.”
icare’s general manager workers compensation Jason McLaughlin, says icare’s Speakers Program was a great way to spread the message of workplace health and safety.
“With over 10,000 construction workers injured at work in the past 12 months1, education, training and tools are crucial in building a safer work environment,” Jason says.
“Stories like Kahi’s bring home the ‘why?’ around injury prevention.”