International occupational health and safety motivational speaker Theo Venter continues to urge companies and individuals to take health and safety practices and procedures seriously.
At a presentation in Midrand, in July, he detailed the consequences of carrying out unsafe acts in industries and the physical, emotional and financial scars these mistakes can leave behind.
Venter recently travelled across the country on a promotional tour to share his personal experiences with various audiences. His message, called ‘Just Another Day’, was triggered by an almost fatal electrical accident six years ago, in Perth, Australia.
Venter, originally from South Africa, worked as a live linesman and was asked by his employer to repair a power pole that was damaged by lightning. He recalled the difficulty he experienced in loosening a nut on the pole and to get a better grip on the nut, he removed his gloves.
Following this, an insulator fell over and, in an attempt to catch it, Venter’s hand made contact with a 22 000 V power line.
“It felt like I was burning from the inside out and I lost consciousness. I had 17 surgeries and am one of the only people ever recorded to have been exposed to and survived a 22 000 V electrical accident while working on overhead power lines,” he said.
Venter’s hands and arms were burnt to the extent that his muscles protruded out of his arms, his hands had swelled to almost three times their normal size and doctors were adamant that he should have his arms amputated.
Venter detailed the downward spiral his life took following the incident, citing depression and suicidal thoughts as major hindrances to his recovery. Eventually, his determination returned and he slowly started to relearn how to do the everyday tasks that he was unable to do as a result of the incident.
He emphasised that systems and safety procedures were in place for a reason and that these needed to be followed, as the consequences of not following them could cause immense pain and anguish for the individuals involved and result in significant costs for companies.
Further, he urged companies and employees to speak about issues and ensure that no shortcuts were taken, even if the culture for business demands that workers produce great results quickly.
He advised workers not to take chances, no matter how experienced they were, as the aftermath of accidents could be huge.
“I will carry these scars as a constant reminder of not following procedure and I urge all companies and their employees to be compliant with risk assessments, as they can help,” he said.
Two years after the incident, Venter returned to work and was offered the position of safety coordinator at his company.
Procedures and training were changed to prevent incidents such as Venter’s.
Venter has addressed more than 80 000 workers facing health and safety challenges on a daily basis in high- and low-risk industries.
He has also had the opportunity to speak to hundreds of organisations and their board members, management and supervisors.
Venter will be back in South Africa in November and again in January 2013 before he begins a world tour in February.