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Stepping Up the Importance of Ladder Safety with Dylan Skelhorn

Stepping up the importance of ladder safety with Dylan Skelhorn

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Dylan Skelhorn recalls the unfortunate events that led to his fall from heights. He shares stories of leadership that did not demonstrate the commitment to safety and how it contributed to the choices that led to sustaining serious, life-altering injuries. Far from brushing off the importance of safety ownership, his story speaks to the importance of speaking up and increasing safety awareness and the role leaders have to drive a meaningful impact. Dylan shares great ideas around ladder safety as well as an innovative solution to reduce this critical risk in the workplace. Tune in to listen to Dylan’s important message!

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Real leaders leave a legacy. They capture the hearts and minds of their teams. Their origin story puts the safety and wellbeing of their people first. Great companies, ubiquitously have safe yet productive operations. For those companies, safety is an investment, not a cost. For the C-suite, it’s a real topic of daily focus. This is The Safety Guru with your host, Eric Michrowski, a globally recognized Ops and safety guru, public speaker and author. Are you ready to leave a safety legacy? Your legacy success story begins now. 

Hi, and welcome to The Safety Guru. Today, I’m very excited to have with me Dylan Skelhorn, who is a safety motivational speaker from the UK, coming to share with us a really powerful story and a powerful story as well in terms of the impact that he’s making in the space around ladder safety. So, Dylan, welcome to the show. 

Hi, Eric. Thank you very much for having me. 

Let’s start maybe if you can tell me a little bit about your story and what transpired. 

So back in June 2011, I had a serious accident which involved a fall from height, and it was 33 from a chimney stack. Now I was standing on the chimney stack sweeping the chimney. It wasn’t really my job. I’d been sent out this day to cover somebody else’s work and I’m up on the chimney stack with no fall protection equipment. And the company I work for, the employer told us basically when I started with the job that we weren’t allowed any safety harnesses or fall protection equipment or anybody who knows ladders. And he had a special dispensation from the UK Health and Safety Executive work at height without safety equipment. Now, I was told that on the first day of going into this job, my job, I was a solid fuel heating engineer. So, I basically installed chimneys, flu stalls. The company was also a roofing company as well. Wasn’t really my thing, but I did do roofing as well for them and labor for the roofers as well. So, most of the work was at a height. And from going to this company on day one, I was showing everything the wrong way. Now, I have been a firefighter for six years before working for this company. 

So, I was used to having Sunday food and my ladder. I was used to working safely, all that sort of stuff coming into this company, it was a totally different safety culture, or they didn’t really have a safety culture. So, the first day on the job, I’m sitting out with the Foreman and I’m told to go up on the roof. I’m told to go that way. And I say, well, can you sue the ladder for me? He basically said, no, we don’t put ladders here. I asked why I was doing it safely in the Fire Brigade and he basically said that the boss is not going to pay for somebody to stand at the bottom of your ladder. And put it well, in his opinion, that person could be somewhere else making more money on another job. So, this worried me. Claiming this ladder. I got the gut feeling in my stomach. I got a little voice in my head, don’t do it. But jobs are quite scarce at the time, especially doing what I was doing. So, I sort of got on with it. And I also asked for a safety harness when working. And this is when I was told by my employer getting one vehicle, a special dispensation. 

Now, it turns out, as I thought, this was complete lies. It didn’t exist. But after the accident, he typed up a fake dispensation, put the Health and Safety Executive name on it, even put an inspector’s name on it saying that we had permission. I then took it to the HSE, and they said, we didn’t issue that. We would never issue one of these to anybody. So, my gut feeling is right, because I still had the accident. So as time has gone on, I was going out to jobs on my own and I was getting scared. Every time I was going up the ladders, we were moving underneath, and I could see them moving. They weren’t safe. It was uneven ground. So, what I started doing was I would get my van and I would park my van in front of the ladder to stop it kicking out at the bottom. Now, we all know that’s not the best, but in my opinion, I thought to myself, it’s better than nothing, you know, the ladder’s not going to move if a van in front of it. Sometimes I couldn’t put the vanilla for obvious reasons, you know, access and stuff like that. 

And when that happened, I would just take the risk. And again, I’m going out nearly every day on my own up these ladders. And I’m getting a gut feeling and I don’t want to do it. And I thought to myself, I need to speak up again. So, I spoke up and I was basically threatened. Losing my job. If you don’t like it, there’s the door. Now, in hindsight, if I could go back to that day knowing what I know now, know what happened to me. I would have walked out the door. I wouldn’t have cared about the money. I’ll get a job somewhere else. The bills might be paid late, but I’ll get a job eventually, right? That wasn’t the way I was thinking. I was thinking, well, you’ve got to pay the bills. And I would try and convince myself when I was claiming these ladders, when I’m getting the gut feeling and when I’m worried, I would say to myself, it always happens to somebody else. It won’t happen to me. I’m only up there for a few minutes. It will be fine. And this is me trying to convince myself that what I was doing was fine, it was safe. 

And like I said, I made the wrong decisions. So, on a daily accident, well, I had actually planned to leave the job. I made a plan. I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m going to end up having an accident. So, I plan to leave a job. Now, I know I can just walk out of the job, but we used to get three weeks off for the summer holidays. 

Sure. 

So, we’ll get three weeks’ holiday. So, I will wait till then. It’s only six weeks away. I’ll keep my three weeks’ holiday pay. I’ll go and get a job with another company, a bigger company or a bigger site. Because my thinking is a bigger company, bigger site. If I ask for a safety harness or somebody to put my ladder a piece of PPE for protection equipment, I’m probably going to get it. Not always, maybe. But in general, the bigger companies, and tends to be the way it is. You tend to find a lot of the time the people are taking the most risk of the smaller companies because they think they’ll get away with it. So, this was my escape plan. I’ve got six weeks to work. I’ll just keep my head down. I won’t take any of these risks and I’ll get through it. And in six weeks’ time, I’ll walk out the door and I’ll never have to work like this again. I didn’t like it. Unfortunately, that day never came. As we know, I had the accident on the day of the accident. Like I said, June 20, 2011. I come into work on Monday morning and my boss says to me, John is not done for work. 

He’s on sick. I want you to go out and do the chimney sweeping with another colleague. Now, John was a young lad, he was about 23 and he used to go drinking every weekend and he continued Sunday night. He knew he had work on Monday morning, but he goes Sunday night, gets drunk and he’s fallen in sick. Usually, somebody else would go and do his job for them. I’d be on the more technical side of the chimneys. I was the only heating engineer in the company, so jobs like that never really got given to me. But because we were short staffed this day, I got sent to do this job and my employer insisted on two people sweeping chimneys. One person goes inside the house, deal with the fireplace, and the other person goes up on the roof and sweeps the chimneys from the top down the way. Now, I don’t know how it is in the USA, I presume it’s the same as the UK and the UK. Everybody sweeps a chimney from inside the house and they sweep up the way. So, there’s no work in heat involved. And as you know, if you can eliminate the best for sure, the hierarchy of controls. 

So, I don’t know to this day why my boss insisted on two people sleeping in the chimney and one of those people going up and risking their life, especially when he wasn’t prepared to provide them with a safety harness. But I insisted on it being done. So, unfortunately, this day I was the one. We’ve done about five chimney sweeps throughout the day. I got to lunchtime and this next house after lunch. It was about 15 miles from my house. Local place actually is a place called California, believe it or not, in Scotland, that’s what it’s called. So yeah, I’m up on the chimney stack. I’m sweeping the chimney ever since I signed, and I’ve just finished the job. But because I’m standing on the chimney stack and like I say, I’m not wearing a safety harness. What had happened is the corpse stone on top of the chimney stack had split into four pieces. It was really weak. It turns out the rebar inside it was all rotten. It was about 50, 60 years old and it collapsed. And because I’m not wearing a safety harness, I found the pitch of the roof. I’m approaching the main ladder and as I’m approaching it, I’m thinking I’ll grab on the main ladder when I get to it and that will stop me falling. 

And I’d already tried to grab on the roof ladder, but I couldn’t. I was going too fast and I damaged my fingers on my hand and I hadn’t got anybody sitting this ladder, like I say. And I also hadn’t tied it to the roof ladder. I was told on a ladder, of course, it was sent on with this company for insurance purposes only, not to tie the two ladders together. So, I didn’t do it. I’d always done it in the Fire Brigade for safety. I’ve since found out again that you are allowed to tie your two ladders together. It’s done for safety, you know, again, it was something I was told that wasn’t true. I just listened to it because it was a ladder professional on a ladder course instructor telling me not to do this. And the reason he gave was if you tie the two separately insured pieces of equipment together, you turn them into one piece of equipment. It’s not insured as one piece. So don’t tie them together. Like I say, since asked the health and safety executive, there’s nothing wrong with tying them together. It’s done for safety. If I had tied them together when I was going down that route when I had that ladder, I wouldn’t have felt any further would have stopped. 

The red shade on the roof ladder would have stopped me. But because it wasn’t tied, there was nobody C-suite and I hit it. It went straight over, and I went down from about 33ft on the chimney stack. It was right straight down off the edge of the gutter level and it was about a further 20ft from the gutter to the ground. But I actually landed on a garden wall on my side Castle style wall, you know, with the pillows. One of the pillars caught me under my arm. My arm was over the wall, and it caught me inside where my ribs are. So, I’m lying on the ground in agony. I can only describe it as the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life. And I’m lying on the ground. My colleague heard the noise. He came running out of the house. And he says, what will I do? And I said an ambulance. And it was about five minutes until the ambulance came, Thankfully, I’m really lucky now. I actually remember all of a sudden, just the pain leaving me. And I was starting to smile, and I couldn’t understand it. And I asked the doctor when I got to the hospital, why was I smiling that day? 

I was in terrible pain, but then the pain and I was smiling. I was lying, thinking I was dying, but I was smiling. And he said, yeah, you were actually dying. He said, what was happening? It was shutting down. You were going into shock. He says, when you’re about to die, your brain knows before you really know that your body is shutting down. And what it does is releases endorphins. And I find that fascinating. Releases these endorphins, and they’re there to keep you calm because if you go into further shock, your body is just going to shut down and you die. But this apparently buys you a bit of time, so it stops you from thinking bad thoughts, scary thoughts. I’m going to die worrying. It just puts you in that calm place, and it buys you by time, unfortunately for me, because the paramedics got there quickly and the ambulance, he managed to save my life. He worked on me in the garden for about 45 minutes before the stretch of melt ambulance. And then they take me to the hospital. They get the X-ray and scanned. They bring me into the emergency room. 

Now, they puncture my bladder with a catheter by putting it in too hard and too fast. Now, I never damaged my bladder in the accident, but that’s one of the knock-on effects of the accident. When you have an accident, you get all these knock-on effects. And after the X rayed me, they came in with the exit and said that I’d broken two rugs on the right side where I had the wall. They had been punctured my right lung. And that’s why I was struggling to breathe anywhere else on that wall. The source and the impact of having that wall had snapped me into both sides of the pelvis because when I hit the wall, I sort of landed sideways. So, I snapped sideways. The two bones that I broke, one is actually a joint. So, the pubic Remus bone is down near the pubic region. There’s a blood clot in there from the trauma as well as from the blood of damage. There are clothes in there as well. Now if they want to try and remove those, I could end up having to wear a bag on my leg for the rest of my life to go to the toilet. 

It gives me the option; do you want to take this risk? You must sign a form saying that if we damage you down there, there’s no comebacks. You can’t sue us all this kind of stuff and there is a high risk that we may damage you down there. Now, I’ve got enough problems physically as it is, without having to go through that. So, I left it in place. But because I did, the pain is still there and it’s painful constantly down there. The other part on the other side, on the left side that I brought, was a sacral iliac joint, which is between, you know, the big iliac wing on your pelvis. Between that and the secret, which is just a little triangular bone at the bottom of the base of the spine, sort of tailbone right in there between there. I also broke snapped it. So, it’s about half an inch from the spine. So that’s how close I am to being in a wheelchair. If I had that wall an inch or two, either side the wrong way, I would be sitting in a wheelchair right now. Or even worse, if my arm had been inside the wall, I would have smashed my head off the wall, and I’d be lying in a coffin somewhere in a casket. 

It’s not worth thinking about. I just think I’m really lucky. Although I’ve got these injuries and these aftereffects, it could have been so much worse. When you hear people falling under 10ft and the dead, they are the most common deaths because you don’t have time to put your hands down, protect yourself. When I fell, I had time to think about it. I remember going down the road thinking, I’ll grab onto that ladder, it didn’t work. I’ll grab onto this ladder, it didn’t work. Trying to think about it right. In a way, it was probably better for me that day that I fell from a higher rate than a smaller rate. Who knows? Maybe not, but there’s no formula to false, right? That’s the thing. You can’t determine what the injuries are going to be, what the outcome is going to be. I just feel very lucky. 

It’s unbelievable, though, that your employer at the time, because most of the cases or I’ve heard the opposite, the employer is at least putting some preventative measures here. It seems like the employer was willfully lying to try to improve profit. So, from a really horrific safety culture, from what I’m hearing. 

It’s really disgusting what he did. I’m actually the third person to have a serious accident in his company. I’m the third person to be made disabled for life with serious injuries. Now, the first two accidents were before I joined the company and they were never reported to the Health and Safety Executive, and that’s why he got away with those. That’s why the HSE had been in and made him purchase harnesses or closed them down, even if telling me he’s not running a safe company, but because they were never reported, he basically got away with us. So, I’m the sort of person now, if that was me owning a company after the first time it happened, I would have been scared and thought, well, no kidding. Yeah. I’ll never let this happen to anybody again. I’ll buy the right equipment. This guy did not care. And there are people out there like that to this day, running companies that will risk your life for the price of a safety harness, $5100, whatever they are over here. I’ve purchased one for my presentations and it’s like £50.65, $70, nothing. But this guy just doesn’t want to put the money out because to him, we meant nothing. 

And like I say, not every employer you will work for or may work for cares about you. And that’s the thing. You’ve got to make sure that your own personal safety officer first. And I always tell people that I made that mistake, not thinking like that, putting money first. At the end of the day, the money meant nothing. I didn’t earn a lot of money, so why did I risk my life for it? But we do stupid things. 

Yeah. So, touch briefly, maybe on the aftereffect of an accident. You’ve talked about the physical side, but there’s a lot more than you have to live with for several years, for decades. 

Yeah. And I would say the aftereffects of an accident are a lot worse than the accident itself. The accident itself is horrible and it’s traumatic, but it’s over after it’s done. It’s done. It’s the aftereffect. And what you got to live with after the accident. And for me, it will be for life. And I’m sure for most people that have serious accidents and injuries, it will be for life. Every single day of their life will be affected in some way or not just their life. The family, the friends, their colleagues, all these people. Now, I go to the hospital after five days. They said there was nothing else they could do for me because I didn’t want those operations and risk down below. They basically said they were clean breaks; they couldn’t do anything with them. So as long as I could walk on crutches, I could get out of the hospital. So, I chose to go home. But like I said, that’s just the start of it. I’m 40%, disabled, in classes now with degenerative arthritis, my pelvis, my lower back and constant pain every second of the day, especially with the bladder stuff as well. 

So, it follows you every day of your life. Now, I was on 744 pills a month. That was a medication I was taking at the time, 24 pills a day. And some of those pills are not good for you. They make you feel terrible sometimes. You can’t even you’re walking about the house like a zombie, you know, they’re not all good for you. So, I was on noise. I’m off a lot of them, though. They are sort of the worst ones. But I’m still taking a lot of pills for paints and stuff like that. But that’s sort of the physical side of an accident. The obvious part, I would say, since you’d associate with having an accident, the pain, the pills, the physical injuries. But there’s another site unless people have had an accent themselves and they know somebody close to them, accent, there’s another site that they might not know about. And I always try to highlight this and the presentations that I do. I was stopped and followed by an insurance company because I had put a claim in for compensation. So, get something to help me later in life. I was stalked and followed. 

They followed me everywhere. And they do this because they want to catch you doing something you shouldn’t be doing. Show the judge, they throw your case out and you get nothing. So, they spend a fortune doing this. And this is sort of every day you wake up in the morning, you look out the window and there’s a car sitting across the road waiting on you. And if you leave the house, I don’t know if this is the same in the US and other places, but in the UK, this is what happens, and this is what happened to me. And they follow you every day, anywhere you went, surgeon’s appointment, doctor, lawyer, physiotherapy, they would follow you everywhere and they do this, like I said, to try and catch you. And I knew I wasn’t doing anything wrong. But you started becoming paranoid. You think maybe I am doing something wrong, so you tend not to go out now. I had to go out for these main appointments, a lawyer, a doctor, stuff like that because if you don’t, it will be used against you in court. You didn’t try to mitigate your losses and get better, but any other day I just stopped going out. 

I wouldn’t leave the house now. Fortunately for me, I live with my parents at the time and if I didn’t, I would have lost everything. I would have lost my house. If I have had kids and a wife, I would have affected their life. I would have ruined their life forcefully for me. I had my parents put a roof over my head to feed me, put some money in my pocket. Because again, I don’t know how it is in the US, but in the UK, what happened to myself was with the benefits. I think you guys call it welfare. They stopped my benefits money not long after I got a hospital. So, I had no money, nothing to live on. So, if I hadn’t been for my mom and dad, I might have been living on the streets. It does happen to people. So again, I try and highlight that side of the accent and I say to people, you could be at work today and life is good. You’ve got family, you’ve got a nice car, you’ve got a nice house and you have an accident today and tomorrow. The bills aren’t getting paid. 

You only get paid for coming to work for one day. So tomorrow the bills aren’t getting paid. Three months’ time. When you’ve missed three payments on the house, the car, they get taken away. Your family can walk out on you. It happens to people because they can’t handle it. Their life changed. So, all these people that could be affected by your accident, something you do unsafe at work one day, can lead to that. And that’s the knock-on effect. And an accident has a huge knock-on effect on everybody. And like I said, not just the person who has the accident, your friends, your family, your colleagues, the person who was with me on the day of the accident, who was doing the job with me, he left the next day to shock. He was so shocked after what he saw. He saw me lying on the ground dying. 

He basically said to yourself, I don’t want that to happen to me. And he had a family, he had two kids and wife and good on him. I’m glad. And maybe that’s a positive to come from my accent, that he was no longer in danger anymore. He started his own business, and he does everything safe now, so maybe that’s good. My colleagues. The company eventually closed after my accident, about a year or two later, I think it was he who was basically told to purchase the right equipment, the safety harnesses. He did it to comply, but he was still sending people out and telling them to not use it because it takes too long, really. 

We think that at that stage he would have changed his mind. 

Yeah, he didn’t. He just did not care. I’m going to say he was signed, but the company was signed £20,000 a quote, which is maybe, what, $30,000? And he made lots of money, this guy, but he just didn’t care. It was all about making money for his employees. So, I think because he was getting followed by the health and safety executive quite a bit and he was sort of retiring age, he basically closed the company. So, he was saying he had money in the bank, he was retiring age, but he put my colleagues at a job. So, they were affected by my accident. Now, their families were probably affected by that. Now, I don’t even know their families, I don’t know their kids, their partners, but they were affected by that because those people lost their jobs. Whether it was financially, whether it was emotionally, I’m sure it affected those families. Like I say, those are people I don’t even know. So, I’ve affected all these people by doing someone safe at work. So, when I said earlier about think about what it is, you’re doing your own personal safety offer. That’s the way it is. 

You’ve got to be safe first. Look out for number one and then look out for other people. If you see somebody doing something unsafe, speak up. They might not even know they’re doing it. You could stop them from the accident. But the way I should have been working that day was if I can’t do it safely, I’m not doing the job. And money should never come into it. It should never have been on my mind. But that’s life. It’s the way we think at the time, a wonderful thing. But like I said, if I could go back to that day, I’d have walked off the job. I would have walked off the job the first day when I was told to claim that ladder that was unsafe, I really would. 

And how do you help leaders and team members make that same realization? Because you talk about trusting your gut. You also talk about safety as about taking pride in yourself. How do you help leaders and team members really realize that they do need to stop in those cases and really reprioritize? 

This episode of The Safety Guru podcast is brought to you by Propulo Consulting, the leading safety and safety culture advisory firm. Whether you are looking to assess your safety culture, develop strategies to level up your safety performance, introduce human performance capabilities, reenergize your BBS program, enhance supervisory safety capabilities, or introduce unique safety leadership training and talent solutions. Propulo has you covered. Visit us at www.propulo.com. 

Well first, before I go into a company and speak for them, I ask them questions. So, do your employees have the authority to stop the job of the task without getting reprimanded, without being threatened myself? If they say no, then I don’t go into that company because my message is a waste of time. That’s part of the message. So, it’s a partnership. So, I basically see in my presentations that the company is allowing you to stop the task. Stop the job. If you do, you will not be shouted up. You will not be threatening to lose your job like me. You may even get a Pat on the back for it. They do not want you to have an accident, but you must meet them halfway. You must speak up now. If a company does that, people are more inclined to speak up now. I spoke up, but when I did, I got shot down, and that meant nothing then because then I didn’t want to speak up because I knew I would get shot down again. I’d lose my job. I’d get lost in my job. So, it’s a two-way thing. It’s a partnership. So, I always like to say and make sure that the company gives the authority. 

And I usually pick out a director, a manager, someday of authority in the audience. And we do arrange us before I ask them if it’s okay to say this again. If they say no, I wouldn’t pull them out. I bring it up and I say, am I right? I’ll see the director. Am I right in saying that all these guys here, these people here have got the authority to stop the job? And they’ll say yes. And I say, see, you’ve heard that. You don’t need to hear it from me. I may never be back here. You’ve heard it from the person at the top. They’re saying you can stop the job. If they’re saying you can stop the job, why wouldn’t you stop the job? And given people that empowerment and that authority to stop a job, knowing in the back of their mind that they won’t be in trouble for it, they are more likely to stop the job. I totally believe that because that’s what happened to me when I tried to stop a job shot down. If you’re not shot down, you’re more likely to speak up. And that’s how you stop accidents. 

Everybody’s got to be on the same team. And there are like I said, there are companies out there that will never allow people to speak up. They don’t have a safety culture, but they are likely never the people that would throw me and ask me to. 

They won’t call you. 

I’ve never heard a company yet say to me, no, no, you can’t say that. I’ve never walked away from a company. So that’s great. I get phone calls from people who want safety in a company. They don’t want accidents happening, which is great. They are the people I want to work with, of course. 

So, what are some of the other messages that you share? You talk about your gut feeling that day and about trusting it. And you talk about really, that safety really reframing what safety is about. 

Yeah. So, going back on what I was talking about, how it can affect not only you, your friends, your family or colleagues, all these people big knock-on effect. Safety for me is about pride and self-respect. Having that pride to stand up and say, that’s not going to happen to me. I’m never going to have an accident. I’m going to go home every single day in one piece, intact, uninjured because I care about my family. I care about the people around me. I care about my children and obviously themselves pride in that self-respect. And I always say that to the people. When I do a presentation, as you walk out of this room with that attitude, thinking I am never going to end up like him, then my accent hasn’t been for one day’s wages being to stop you going through the same thing I go through every single day of my life. And if I stop one person having an accident, then it’s worth it. I’m negative into a positive. Obviously, we don’t want anybody to have an accident. They do happen, as we know. But if it stops, just one person doing it, then I’ve been doing this for seven years now and I intend to do it for as long as I can. 

And if it just stops one person going through what I went through or being killed even or just even a cut finger, then it’s worth doing it because it stopped an injury. 

Exactly.

Obviously, like I said, we hope it’s more than one, but we can only try our best. But that’s the aim. And that’s why I didn’t want my accent to be for one day’s week, because that’s all we come to work for. One day’s wage. If you have an accident today, you may get that money in your bank, but you’re not getting it tomorrow when you’re lying in a hospital bed or you’re lying in a box. So, we only come to work for one day’s wage. And when you look at it like that, one day’s wage is nothing. We put everything on the line every single day to risk everything for one day’s wage. Why risk everything for that? It’s not enough. It never will be enough. A lifetime wage isn’t enough to lose your life or be seriously injured. So why risk it for one day’s wage? And I tell people that as well. Don’t put everything on the line, you know, it’s just a job at the end of the day. Yes, it’s important. It’s how we make a living. But it’s not as important as the things or the people outside of work. That’s why we really go to work, to provide for them, to provide for ourselves, to enjoy life.  

There are many parts of life now that I can’t enjoy and that’s just the way it is. I don’t want other people going through that. So yes, safety is about pride and self-respect. And another message I like to use is the most important piece of PPE is the human brain. The safety harness or the steel toe cap boots. The hive is vest, that sort of stuff. Yeah, they’re important, of course, here. Unless you actually use your brain first to know your stuff, that stuff on or listen to that little voice in your head telling you something like the gut feeling, unless you actually listen to that first and act on that first, you can still have the accent. Doesn’t matter what PPE are, we so the most important piece of PPE as a human brain and I would say also the gut feeling, they call that a second brain. If something isn’t right for you, what I say is stop. Take 5 seconds. Look at it again. If it’s still not right, don’t do it now. It could be 5 seconds, it could be five minutes, it could be 5 hours. We say 5 seconds just to stop and look at it again. 

But however long it takes, if you’re getting a gut feeling or the little voice in your head or just something niggling at you, you don’t feel like doing it. We’ve all heard that. The butterflies in our stomach, we get that for a reason. And if you ever get that when you’re about to do a task, stop, like I said, take the 5 seconds, 10 seconds a minute, whatever it takes. Look at it again. If it’s still not right, you don’t do it. If you can make it right, you can make it safe. Great. Get on with it. The task. But if you can’t look at it and you know what, get other people around as well. Are you getting the same gut feeling I’m getting? Two heads are better than one, as they say. 

Exactly. 

That’s the kind of thing just to look at again. But would you do all of that stuff if you thought in the back of your mind that if somebody sees you stopping a job, you’re going to get shouted up, threatened, lose your job? You probably wouldn’t. And that’s why it’s so important to have the company on-site as well. The people are told the people you’re working for, whoever’s in charge got the same attitude towards safety as the person doing the task as a team’s effort. Safety, as far as I’m concerned. Like I say, if you’ve got a boss or employer like me, it’s not going to work. My advice then would be to get out of there quick. Get a job where? Somewhere where you’re appreciated, where you’ve been given the authority to stop the job. And I talk about self-respect and pride. Now, if an employer hasn’t got enough respect for me to allow me to stop a job and not be injured, why should I risk my life to line their pockets? It’s a two-way thing. It’s mutual respect. So that’s the way I see it as well. 

Absolutely. At the end of the day, that is a responsibility from an employer’s standpoint to try to do their best to create a safe environment. If they’re not doing that, they don’t deserve to be in business. We talk about employee engagement, but employee engagement is important. But even more primary, more critical than not is ensuring that your team members come home day in and day out to their loved ones. 

Yes, if you’re sending people out to do a task or a job, it’s down to you to make sure that safe. You’ve done your risk assessment, you’ve written your message statement, you’ve looked at the risks, you’ve tried to make it as safe as possible, and then at the end of it yet, that’s okay to go and do that. That’s your responsibility. And also, like I said earlier, it’s the person doing the task to the end. If they see something that’s not right. Not safe to speak up and do something about it. The employer may not always be on the job, may always not be on the site. It’s down to you to be your own personal safety officer. 

Yeah, absolutely. So, I’d love to hear a little bit about the passion project you’ve been running. So, you’ve tried to make a difference in speaking to people around safety, but you’ve also tried to take some actions in terms of improving ladder safety, which is incredibly dangerous. A lot of people underestimate the risks associated with a ladder. Tell me a little bit about what you’ve done on the ladder safety side. 

So back before I had the accident when I just started with this company, and as I said, at the start, I was sent out to work on ladders unsafely on my own, nobody footing them. I thought to myself, one way I can try and be safe is to go online and look for a ladder stabilizer that I can put in the box on my ladder and stop my ladder moving. I went online and looked and as far as I’m concerned, everything I saw that was available, there was nothing that would actually stop my ladder moving. There was nothing that would do that. And actually, working on even ground put it at the right angle, all that kind of stuff. So, I came up with an idea for a product, and it’s called Ladder Locker. Now, I came up with the idea and I thought to myself, like having somebody fruit in the ladder, it needs to be something that uses weight, right? Most of it. But all of the ladder stabilizers I saw online when I looked with the blown away in a strong wind, so they don’t work. The problem with C-suite and ladders is, as well, as you probably know, it’s the last sort of thing you do. 

If you don’t have any other way of supporting a ladder, securing a ladder, you get somebody to put it. But it’s been proven that if somebody’s at the top of a fairly the bottom, it’s never going to hold them. 

No. 

Going to happen. It’s physically impossible. So, it’s a bit of a placebo. It’s more to make the person up the ladder feel a bit safer. But are they actually safer? Probably not. And the other problem you’ve got with that is people tend to get bored when they’re in the ladder. They walk away, they move, they start getting their phone out of their pocket and actually looking. And then the other thing is, if somebody does fall, well, the ladder is being sued. If they fall on the person sitting on the ladder, you’ve got two severe injuries or possibly worse. So, I came up with this idea. Then, unfortunately, I had the accident, and I started my motivational safety speaking business back in 2014. And I was always putting this idea to the back of my mind because I thought it was going to cost a lot of money and it’s a lot of work and I’ll get around to it. And in 2016, I was waiting on my car getting serviced in the garage. And you know how you sit and Daydream just waiting on things. I thought to myself, you know, what if I don’t do this now, I’ll never do it. 

And I don’t want to get to 70 years of age and think, what is? Imagine if I had done that, imagine how many lives it might have saved, where would it have went? So, I contacted a patent lawyer and they loved it. They said it was patentable. They thought it was a great idea. So, the patent process is very long, and I’ve now got Water weight patents granted. So, I’ve got all that. And last year, on the 20 June, which was the ten-year anniversary of my accent, I launched Ladder Locker. You can watch it on YouTube, just type in Ladder Locker and you’ll see that the product. Like I said, what it does is it uses weights, and the ladder is put on it. So, you put the ladder and it’s got an angle plate in it. So, when you put it in, you rest the ladder on this plate and you get it sitting where you want it, at the top, the land and resting. If you’ve got it resting properly on that backplate, because it’s angled at the correct angle and it’s sitting where it needs to be at the top, the ladder physically cannot be at the wrong angle. 

It’s got to be at a perfect angle, the 75.5 degrees angle that it should be at. So, it puts at the right angle. It was uneven ground. There’s a spirit level built-in. And again, as long as you level up with the spirit levels, it cannot be at the wrong angle. You then clamp the size of the ladder and clamp the front of the ladder in and then the door shuts at the front to keep it in as well. And you put weights in the back of it. And that is like having somebody put in your ladder. But the beauty of this is those weights won’t walk away, they won’t get bored, they won’t go on the phone, they are there to stay. And I just believe that this is needed. I’ve been there. I was looking for something rather moving, and that’s why I invented it. That’s why I brought it out. And I’m trying to get onto the market now, starting a new business. It’s not easy. So, I’m at the moment, I’m trying to get the proper manufacturer and software, the distribution, all these kinds of things. So, it’s taking a bit of time. 

But like I said, the reason I launched it last year, the video was I wanted to make a sort of symbolic and I put it on LinkedIn and all these other places. And I basically said you know, it’s ten years today since my accident, I want to mark the occasion with something positive. I don’t want to push poor me; I’ve had an accident. I want it to be, this is what’s come from the accident. This is a negative being turned into a positive coming from the negative. In the UK, there’s like 2 million and use estimated every day, the US will be even more. There are 2000 ladder-related injuries every day in the US, there are 300 deaths a year, 130,000 emergency room visits. I’ve actually seen that figure as 168,000, and I’ve even seen it as high as 500,000. You got all these different stats coming out, which one is true? But if you just take the smallest one, there 130,000 people go to emergency room every year. A lot of people. It costs the economy. In the US, $24 billion work loss, medical costs, legal costs, liability, the pain and suffering, not to mention the physical and mental problems that people get from these accents. 

In the UK, 40% of fall from height in the home and in the workplace, a lot of accidents, right? 480 people are admitted to hospital every year in the UK, obviously, we’ve got a less of a population than you guys. 14 deaths per year. Like I said, there are 2 million ladders used every day. I don’t know what our figure is in the US, but it’s got to be a hell of a lot more. So, it’s probably the most used tool out there. And for me, the fact that there wasn’t anything out there actually worked. That’s what worried me. And most ladders accidents are because the ladder moved. It’s not that the ladder got hit by something or something because the ladder moved, the friction wasn’t there. And 40% of those over 40% is because the bottom of the ladder moved. Six and a half percent sideways slip 4%, top 3%, the ladder went backwards. But I see this all the time still to this day. And what really gets to me is the fact that we’ve got phones in our pockets that can link to satellites. We’ve got all this technology that when it comes down to things like ladders and safety harnesses, people aren’t prepared to buy the right equipment, or the right equipment isn’t available. 

And to me, like I say, ever since I saw online that day that I look for a lot of people, I wouldn’t have bought any of them. And I’m not here to test anybody else’s product. But for me, like I said, nothing worked. So, this is why I came up with this idea. And here we are, 1112 years later, it’s taken to get there because of the accident. If it hadn’t been for the accident, I would have probably got there a lot quicker. But like I say, affect your life so much. So, I mean, that’s what I want to concentrate on now, as well as the motivational. Safety speaking. I want to get this product out there. I want to make it available to as many people as possible because the more people we can start on these actions, the better. 

Absolutely. So, Dylan, thank you very much for coming to share your story and for investing in creating a stabilizer for ladders. I think that’s something that hopefully can have a significant impact as well because a number of people that even at home are using ladders and aren’t necessarily thinking about safety because they may be thinking about it in the work environment. Definitely a significant impact there. So, if somebody wants to get in touch with you, what’s the best way for them to connect with you? 

Dylan, I have a website. My company is called safety up, safety up. So, www. Dot Safety Up. Co. UK I think if you just put safety up dot. Co. UK and you’ll be able to get it on there, there’s a contact form and you can contact me that way via email. The phone numbers are on there. I’m also on LinkedIn so Dylan, scale on and brackets its safety up and ladder locker. If you want to find me there, you can contact me that way. There’s a safety up and a ladder locker Twitter page. There’s safety up ladder locker Instagram all these sorts of things. But the best way to get me is via the website like I say safety at the UK and like I said, if anybody wants to watch the video of ladder locker, it’s on YouTube. It’s just a ladder locker if you take that and you’ll see it as a red-colored product, so you’ll know it’s the correct one. Excellent. 

Well, thank you for joining me. 

Dylan, thank you very much, Eric, thank you for having me. I really enjoy it.  

Thank you for listening to the safety guru on the C-suite radio. Leave a Legacy distinguish Yourself from the back grow your success capture the hearts and minds of your teams, fuel your future. Come back in two weeks for the next episode or listen to our sister show with the Ops guru, Eric Michrowski.  

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ABOUT THE GUEST

Dylan Skelhorn has been working as a Motivational Safety Speaker since 2014, sharing his story to try and prevent others from having life-changing injuries which he is very determined and passionate about. His story is a harsh reminder to those in all industries and at every level that unfortunately these incidents are still happening today.

He worked as a Solid Fuel Heating Engineer for a small company that specialized in Chimney work and Roofing where he sustained his ladder collapsed from underneath him. Dylan fell headfirst down a pitched roof, knocking over an unsecured extension ladder and fell a total of 33 feet, landing on a brick wall. It had left him physically unable to work and in severe lifelong pain.

He travels the length of the UK and Ireland presenting to a lot of companies and is prepared to travel even further to share his story. He has presented to tens of thousands of people. In 2017, Dylan was asked by major national construction company Willmott Dixon to be their Safety Ambassador and worked with them full time for three years visiting all of their sites and offices and still continues to present for them. Since his injury, he has designed Ladder Locker, a product designed to stabilize ladders for safe use, which has won an award from the World of Safety & Health Asia in the Safety Category for new & Innovative Solutions.

For more information on the product, check out: Ladder Locker – YouTube

Website: www.safetyup.co.uk

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