man sitting in wheelchairI think it’s just human nature to believe that truly horrible things only happen to other people. That somehow, by virtue of being an average person with an average life and average dreams, the law of averages will also – somehow – mostly round out the devastating blows, too.

If you’ve had a sudden, traumatic loss erupt in your life, you know just how jarring, just how cruel, the wake-up call can be. If the loss happened on the job, you know the true weight and significance of protecting workers’ health and safety. You know the price paid for the lack of it is too high.

A husband. A father. A son or daughter. A nephew. A grandparent. A brother. A mother.

The true loss from each workplace injury, illness, and death can’t be measured in a balance sheet or reported statistics. It certainly isn’t counter-weighted by a courtroom conviction or a sizable fine.

When it happens to you — or your people, or your person — the averages no longer round out the odds. Devastating workplace injury, illness or death is no longer something that happens to other people, because it happened to you.

Each and every workplace tragedy sets off a cascade of effects throughout the personal and professional lives of everyone affected: worker, family, friends, co-workers, first responders. The list is long. The results are devastating and long-term. And none of us are immune. Workplace injury, occupational disease, and traumatic fatalities can happen at any workplace, to any worker, and to any family. The laws, standards, codes, and best practices for occupational health and safety were developed to protect us. They were borne from unquantifiable loss and pain.

A moment in time can change everything. Workplace health and safety is about protecting all of us. It is our right. We owe it to each other.

Sarah Wheelan