Survivor of workplace accident pays it forward

Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson was only 21 when a workplace accident changed his life forever. He was working at a sawmill in his home town – nine months into a new job – when his arm was caught in a moving roller on a conveyor belt under a wood chipper.

The loud machinery drowned out his screams for help.

“After maybe 20 minutes, I was passing out from blood loss. I knew I’d die if someone didn’t help me, so I threw up a prayer to God and said, ‘Please God, make it stop!’” said Mark, quoted in this speaker’s profile.

Miraculously, the machine stopped. Workers came to his rescue and got him to hospital. His life was saved, but he lost the use of his arm. Now, nearly nine years later, he shares this experience with students and worker groups throughout BC.

“I do this because I feel like God saved my life and it’s my job to pay it forward by sharing my story,” Mark said, via phone, when I called to ask him why.

“I really enjoy the many different reactions I get from students. I talk to a lot of groups at saw mills and they love my story because it’s very relateable to them. I get a lot of handshakes and people share their stories with me which I really enjoy too.”

Mark is part of WorkSafeBC’s Young Worker Speakers Network of young people adapting to life after serious injury at work.

“Hearing first-hand accounts is powerful but seeing an injured worker with a prosthetic leg or another type of serious injury really makes an impact on students,” says Glen McIntosh, WorkSafeBC manager of New/Young Worker and Small Business.

“It’s difficult to understand the impact of an injury, but when they hear of the limitations from someone going through it they can imagine how it would impact their own lives.”

Mark and his fellow speakers share their stories and tell students these important messages:

* You have the right to know, the right to speak up, and the right to refuse unsafe work.

* You have the right to proper information, instruction, training, and supervision while on the job.

* If you’re unsure about something, ask questions or tell your boss or supervisor — it could save your life.

* Every workplace has its dangers. There’s always a chance you could get hurt no matter what industry you work in. But you can lower that chance by knowing your rights.

Hearing this not only helps young workers to keep themselves safe, but also influences their future as leaders.

“Young workers are going to be the future supervisors, managers and owners of companies themselves,” says Glen. “Instilling a sense of safety culture in them when they are young will last into their adult working careers.”

Thanks to Mark for talking with me – and congratulations on your wedding June 13.


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