Working Safely: The Best Gift to Your Family and Loved Ones with Lisa Ramos and David Garton
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ABOUT THE EPISODE
“Nobody ever said to me, ‘Cut corners, work unsafely, product over people.’ No one ever said that. I think it was an invisible pressure that I put on myself.” In this powerful and inspiring episode, Lisa and David share their story and experience surrounding Lisa’s workplace incident that occurred seventeen years ago and how they continue to overcome the mental and physical aftermath within their family. Tune in as Lisa shares the crucial importance of building a culture of safety ownership, encouraging team members to speak up, and reporting all safety concerns. Learn why working safely is the greatest gift you can give to your family and loved ones.
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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 well-being 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 two guests, Lisa Ramos and David Garton. They’re both health and safety impact speakers. So, Lisa and David, welcome to the show. Very excited to have you with me.
Morning. Thank you.
First, Lisa, why don’t you start by sharing a little bit of your story?
I was working for a logistics company. I was based within the warehouse. Dave was also working there. That’s how I initially found out about the vacancy. I did have very close proximity to forklift trucks. Now, the day of the accident, I hadn’t done anything particularly different from any other day. And about half an hour before the end of my shift, I was walking past where we had some of our container bays and I was knocked to the ground by a reversing forklift. I hadn’t realized that he was in the empty container, and he hadn’t realized that I just walked past it.
So, tell me about the environment because this is something as you remember you were sharing that you cross through this particular area on a regular basis. It was the marked path, if I’m not mistaken.
Yes. Within our warehouse, we did have designated walkways. However, they were more of a visual. So, there wasn’t really any segregation. It would be marked out on the floor with a piece of green tape. And where this particular walkway was, in hindsight now, you think, well, why would a walkway have been put there when it was an area where the fault list would be going in and out?
It wasn’t put in the best location in hindsight. On that particular day, we’d finished all of our work. The area was completely silent because there was no more work to be done within that area. I think that although I had become very complacent and felt very comfortable around the 40 drivers, I think probably because we’ve done all of our work that added to it because there was no reason for anybody to be within that area anymore. I walked past the first one, the drivers in there with his engine off, he’s reversed out, but he’s not reversed out far enough. And then he’s come and reversed onto me where I’m on the walkway.
Right. Wow. So, tell me about the incident and the aftermath. So, David, I think you weren’t there. You were coming to pick Lisa up, correct?
Yeah, I was traveling to work to pick Lisa up. I remember number one walking across the car park and everybody else was coming out. I noticed that none of them could look at me, if you get what I mean.
Right. then none of you acknowledged me. Then the group leader took me to where Lisa was on the floor, but she was just covered in coats, so I couldn’t actually see what her injuries were or anything like that. The medical staff were there looking after her. We obviously got loaded into an ambulance and then taken off site. It wasn’t until we got to the hospital and the doctor came to examine her that I actually saw that’s when I first saw her injuries. Wow.
Tell me a little bit about what was the effects… You often talk about the effect on the family, the ripple effect. Lisa and David, what were some of the themes that emerged and that happened as a result?
I think the main ripple effect for us was the impact on our song. Even to this day, I know that we focus a lot now on mental health and I think that there is so much focus on the injured party that there was lots of counseling. I mean, I probably had counseling for about three years. So, I was able to overcome what had happened and then accept that this was my new life now, because if you don’t accept it, then it’s not only hard for you, but it’s hard for everybody around you. But I think because everybody is so focused on the injured party, you don’t really see what’s happening right in front of you. So, for us, the impact on our son, I mean, the day of the accident, it was actually his 13th birthday. When I look back now, we didn’t live near any of our family, so Dave had to ring him up and say, look, your mom’s had an accident at work. It isn’t serious, but you’ve got to ring all your friends up, cancel your party. He was then waiting for my mom to pick him up. So, he didn’t actually know how serious my injuries were until the following morning when Dave brought him in to see me.
Even that aspect of it, where Dave knew the night before that my foot had been amputated, he’s then got to go and fetch Ciaran from my mom’s and pretend that I broke my leg because we had made the decision that it was better for him to be told by me when he could see me face to face than be told by somebody else. Little things like when I came out of hospital and his birthday cake was still in the box. Little things that you then like, wow, his birthday is never going to be the same again and trying so hard to make it about him rather than you. And that’s far more difficult for other people because it gets to his birthday and you might have a little cry and be a little bit upset, but you’ve got to pull yourself together because it’s not about you, it’s about him. But all the people for many years afterwards would ring me on Kieran’s birthday and it would be, Are you okay? But you’re trying so hard not to make it about you. So, at times it was as though they wanted you back there, but you were trying so hard to move on and let Ciaran have his birthday back.
For us, the mental health side of things, Dave suffered, I suffered, Ciaran still suffers. I know that my mum and my step mum found it very difficult to come to terms with. In fact, I think that I would put Ciaran suffering the most then maybe my mom and my step mum because they found it quite difficult to see me go from this person into this other person. Sure. Especially my mum. My mom sees loss So if I was walking, my mum wouldn’t think, wow, she’s walking. My mom would think but look how she’s walking. Look how she’s struggling. It’s very difficult for her to separate the two. Whereas that’s what I’ve had to do. In my mind, it’s before and it’s after. But for Ciaran, at the time, and many years after, it’s probably only in the last couple of years where he has realized that this did impact him. For Ciaran, he got freedom after I had my accident because I was so focused on my rehabilitation that he got freedom. For him, that was a positive. For us, that wasn’t a positive because he started hanging around with people he shouldn’t have been hanging around with.
Then these people got worse and worse and worse and worse. His behavior is so different to what we would have wanted for him and the struggles that he’s had. Simple things like being able to express yourself. At a crucial point in his life, he watched me behave in a volatile, aggressive manner when things weren’t going my way. So, for him, that’s quite normal to just explode and have this anger. For him, he struggles to express himself. Emotionally, everything is anger, and you can’t behave in that manner. But for him, that’s quite normal. And you can only do so much in terms of counseling and that type of thing when that person doesn’t really want to have counseling or doesn’t really think they’ve got a problem. It’s only really now that he’s accepting a lot of support, and we are hopeful that by the end of it, that he can go on to have a happy life because you can’t be happy when you’re so full of anger and rage. And I’ll be honest, I was like that for probably three years. I was so angry, and it was all focused on the driver. That’s who I was angry at.
You’re looking to blame somebody because it’s far easier to blame somebody else than to blame yourself, or even take responsibility for any part of it. I do feel a lot differently now, but that’s only been in the last few years. My accident’s coming up to 17 years is now. I’ve not changed the fact that the driver wasn’t looking where he was going. The walkway shouldn’t have been there.
But, I have changed the fact in terms of looking at where did I go wrong? What could I have done to have changed what happened that day? And there’s lots of things that I could have done. I just no longer saw the danger anymore. I’d gone from being frightened when I first started working there because I’d never worked in such a busy environment. I don’t come from a warehouse background. I come from an administrative teacher background. I went very quickly from being afraid of these vehicles to no longer seeing them as being dangerous. I think that being complacent when you are working around people who you think work safely can also be a problem. I was using an example the other day that when you’re in a supermarket car park, you don’t know these people who are driving in and out of the car parking spaces, and you’re alert and you’re watching what they’re doing and you’re careful. Go into a warehouse environment where you’ve worked with these people and you know that they are safe drivers, you’ve picked up so many bad habits, you’re relying on somebody else. You’re no longer alert; you no longer see danger that you may have saw at the beginning.
You’re And I think that the other thing is that I didn’t really see forklift as being anywhere near as dangerous as a car. That’s how I saw it. It was this little cute moving machine, and I didn’t really realize the damage that a forklift truck.
Could do to a person. The driver, when he ran me over, he actually said he thought he’d run over a roll of tape. So, the tape that we used to use would be about this big and that’s what we’d mark the floor out with. And that’s what he thought he’d run over. And it was only ages afterwards where I thought, Oh, my God. The impact to the vehicle that he felt he thought was a roll of tape, which is just so unbelievable. But I think that people sometimes think that the worst injuries is the actual amputation. That isn’t. It’s the pain that comes with that. So not only do I have phantom pain it. I’m laughing because to a lot of people, it’s a bit unbelievable that you could be in pain for something that’s no longer there. But for me, it feels a very physical pain. But it’s also the nerve damage because our walkway was so close to the container bays. I’m on that walkway. He’s reversed onto me on the walkway. The only way that he could get off me, because he’s reversed over me, he’s tore everything one way. So, the only way for him to get off me was basically running me back over.
So, he’s then torn everything the other way. So, all the nerve damage that came with that. But what I used to find really, really peculiar was the fact that the nerve damage that I suffered, the end of the stumble, I couldn’t actually feel. So, if I was wearing a prosthetic, I wouldn’t be able to feel if it was rubbing, blistering, that thing. But I could feel my foot and I could move my foot, which is so crazy. Even to this day, I can feel my foot. So, since day four of the accident, which is even stranger because you think, well, if you’re going to feel it, surely, you’d feel it at the time. No, they took my foot on the Friday. I felt my foot on the Tuesday when they took the leg. So, it’s one of those really, really peculiar things that even doctors and those people up there, they can’t explain why it is. I think it’s to do with the brain and the signal not quite getting there in time. It’s a comforting sensation, but the pain side of things is just unbelievable at times.
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I want to go back to what you were talking about in terms of getting comfortable with the danger, because I think you come into an environment, you hopefully got some training in terms of the risk, the dangers, the environments, how do you protect yourself in this context? And then over time, you start getting comfortable with the risk and the hazards. Tell me a little bit more about that. And are there ways to prevent that degree of comfort?
When I started, we had an induction. Obviously, part of that was some health and safety. I can remember watching a video that was a man who basically got a fake arm in his shirt and the forklift took the arm off and it was all very… It was all very It was more comical than informative. It didn’t really go into my mind that, wow, these are dangerous. I didn’t like being around the forklift, to begin with. But then I watched my colleagues, and I thought I was the first female that had ever worked within that warehouse. So, I don’t know whether some of these different things were factors in that I didn’t want anybody to think, oh, we knew we shouldn’t have had a woman in here because you can’t handle it. But I know that it didn’t take very long for me to become comfortable around the fort. My area within that warehouse, you know how you can get partitions, which is basically stand with a bit of sponging on it? So, I had two sides of that, but I would have forklift on all four sides. So, it was basically not even a cubicle within the warehouse space.
It was basically just two partitions one at the back, one at the side, but forklift would be on all four sides around you. And so even when I look back now, I think, wow, that really wasn’t good. I know it’s not possible to segregate within our businesses, but obviously, we know that the only way to prevent something like this from happening is segregation, or as much segregation as you can possibly do. There wasn’t really any segregation there. I also think the attitude towards health and safety. There wasn’t really any attitude towards health and safety. I thought that I worked very safely. It’s only in the last few years where I started really analyzing my own behavior. I’m not saying I have flashbacks or anything like that, but I think of a time where I’d say to the forklift driver, oh, bring us that fella over here, mate. I’d check it on his forks while his engine is running. And when I look back now, I think, why would I have done? Or why would I have behaved like that? And I think that I felt comfortable. That driver was safe. He never gave me no reason not to be safe.
But you just think, why would I put myself in a position? So, although I don’t think I did anything particularly wrong the day of the accident, there were definitely things that I could have done to prevent it speaking up.
I think all of us could have done something different.
Was Lisa’s team leader, so why didn’t I see the danger? I’m supposed to be there to protect people as part of my job, and I didn’t see the danger. And I’d work there for years doing the same thing as what Lisa was doing, but I never saw the danger, either. I think the problem is as well is that because there’s never been anybody injured, if there was any damage, because it’s stock, it’s not really taken the same way. Sure. And so, if a palette’s been damaged, a palette’s been damaged. We don’t look at that as, wow, that was a close call. Let’s have a think about what we can do differently. The states of people’s forklift trucks, they’re all scraped up, scraped and got dint. There’s lots of things that I think that us as employees could do. I also think there’s lots of things that management could do, because I think we all have our different priorities that we are working towards. In my case, nobody ever said to me, cook corners, work unsafely, product over people. No one ever said that. I think it was an invisible pressure that I put on myself that I thought, Right, well, we need to get 10 loads done today, but with one man down, we still got to do it. And I think from an employee, you think to yourself, if you do think to yourself, oh, well, in order to achieve that, I’ve got to cook corners, you’re assuming that those above know what you’re doing because how do they think we’ve achieved that when we haven’t got the right amount of staff?
But obviously, they’ve got their own priorities that they are working towards and don’t necessarily realize that in order to achieve the same amount of work, you are cutting corners. Therefore, you’re working unsafely. I also think that those on the ground floor should have more involvement in the risk assessments because I think that if I was cutting corners, at no point would I have thought, I’m going to cut this corner because then I can get my work done, but now I’m working unsafely, because I probably didn’t realize the repercussions of missing out one tiny bit of my job, which will save me time. So, I think that if people are involved in the risk assessment, the more likely to buy into it and think, Right, well, I need to do it like this because… And these are the reasons. It’s a bit like when your mum and dad say, Because I told you so. Your boss is saying, Work like this because I told you so. If you know the reason behind that, you’re more likely to go, well, actually, yeah, they’re the right, because they want us to go home safely and go home in the same piece that we arrived.
So, I think that the problem is at the minute is that in order for people to work safely, everybody has got to participate. I think we focus a lot on those who are on the ground floor, the ones who are going to get injured, because they’re the ones who would get hurt. But the problem is, if the supervisors and the managers also aren’t on board with that, it makes your job very difficult because if you are short staffed or you are running behind, the expectation there is to still do your amount of work, but how can I do the same amount of work if I’ve not got the same amount of time, people, and all those other things that are needed to work safely?
I’d like to much on something else because you talked about this pathway, which was marked with tape. I think a lot of it is you talk about risk assessments, which I think is phenomenal, getting more people involved. But you also want people to speak up when they see something to drive improvements. So, tell me a little bit about how the organization can help and foster that, and also the individual role around it. Because I think the speaking up piece with that pathway, it probably corrects me if I’m wrong, it was probably in the wrong place. It should have been.
Somewhere else. Yeah, I believe it was in the wrong place. But believe it or not, there are still businesses who have the walkway precisely in that same place, even to this day. For us, we’ve got the health and safety executives. If they made the decision and said, Right, within the UK, you no longer are allowed walkways there. That would make things so much easier for businesses because they’d know they were breaking the law. They can’t do it. For me, every single day I was on that walkway, if I was doing 10 loads, I’m on that walkway more than 10 times. At no point when I poked my head in to see if there was a forklift in that container, did I think to myself, oh, that’s dangerous, because he could have come out and I wouldn’t have seen him. Every single time that that happened, I had the opportunity to report that and didn’t. Now, I don’t know had I reported it, if anything would have been done, because I personally believe at that time there was no health and safety culture, not from curves and not from management. But at the same time, no one was stopping me from reporting that.
I never reported anything the whole time I was there. And I think that a lot of businesses now do make it a lot easier for people to report things. We’ve got into businesses where they have anonymous systems. So, if there’s something going on, but you haven’t got the courage, because sometimes there can be repercussions. Whether it’s a member of staff that’s working unsafely, you don’t always feel comfortable going up to that member of staff and saying you’re working unsafely. It doesn’t always go down very well. So, there’s anonymous ways to report things. We’ve gone to one business, and they came up with this system where they input it onto an app, it goes directly to the top guy in health and safety alongside the other people in health and safety who should be dealing with it. But because it’s gone to him as well, he gets to see it. It. And I thought that was absolutely fantastic. They’ve got an app where they can go… Most people have got the phones on them where they can take a picture and upload it immediately. It doesn’t always cost a lot of money to implement things that people can easily access and report things because a lot of times we do think, Well, it’s not really my problem.
Somebody else can report it, or it’s somebody else’s issue. They can deal with that because I think that’s where we’re at, where we need to start reporting incidents. But we’ve been to places where people aren’t sure whether something is a hazard or a near miss.
Which is a problem. Right.
Even education on that. When I said the other day that when you’ve worked somewhere, a while, but you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re at that awkward bit where you’re like, Right, I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing, but I don’t ask anybody because they’re going to think, well, what you’ve been doing for the last two months. Some businesses have done that, for example, went into one business, they came up with this fantastic app that cost £1.99. Basically, it was video tutorials of how you do your checks on your thought forklift, because what they found was that they had some people within the business whose reading and writing wasn’t brilliant, who might find it embarrassing to come forward and say, I’ve got this issue. So, they decided to go down the road off doing video tutorials. They would have a tablet. They’d be trained on how to set that up. And then they were able to watch a video on how they were supposed to be doing, all the checks. Or they would do a questionnaire where the questions were put in different orders each time. So, you’re not just going yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.
So, the there’s loads of different things that are out there. I think with health and safety, I think it’s good when we are sharing ideas what other businesses have got because that helps everybody. It doesn’t need to be top secret. But I think that there is a lot more businesses now who are prioritizing health and safety, invest a lot of money into the safety of their staff. But again, everybody needs to participate. You can’t just be them right at the top and then right at the bottom, because those in the middle can quite easily cause problems to stop them at the bottom working safely.
I think you talk about making it easy. I think that’s really important. The organization’s got to do something about the feedback that they receive. But I think the fundamental piece is they’ve got to encourage it. It’s got to be a culture where I want this feedback. I want people to look for opportunities to drive improvement versus your nuisance if you come up with issues or themes that come forward. I think that’s often the hardest part to change because everybody in the organization has got to shift their thinking and their response when somebody does bring up some.
Challenges around it. Responsibility as well. Responsibility. We are all responsible. I can remember years ago when I first started at work, that’s what we were told. You are responsible for yourself. You are responsible for your colleagues. I think that when we started introducing health and safety positions or departments, sometimes what would happen is the rest of us would think, Oh, brilliant. I could go into that warehouse with my eyes shut because somebody else could make sure that I’m safe. You thought, Well, that’s not my job anymore. It must be safe. And that’s what I would have thought. I would have thought whatever feelings I’ve got about the position of that walkway; it must be safe because we’ve got health and safety department here. So, I’m overthinking it. That’s where it would have ended. I never would have reported it because I didn’t see it as that big of an issue. When there was a lot of activity going on within that area, you’ve got the noise, you’ve got the lights, and you’ve got all of that going on, I would have been 100 % alert. My accident happened Friday afternoon, half past three when I was finishing at four o’clock. I’d finished all my work. Nothing else was left to be done. And for whatever reason, I did not look in that container. I Just walked past.
Thank you. You’ve shared a lot of important themes around cutting corners, around acceptance of risks, around speaking up in the role of an organization, around creating that questioning attitude. You both speak together. Tell me a little bit about the focus of your presentations that you make in organizations.
I focus on me, me, me. But to be honest, I think that when the more powerful speeches by date.
Because I deal with the family, particularly our son, Lisa’s parents. I do think that that comes across then because people start thinking, how would my family cope? What would happen to me? What would happen to them? I think that then comes across a lot harder.
Yeah, it hits home. When me and Dave did our very first speech, it was about five years ago, and it was for the Four-leaf Truck Association in the UK. I made Dave do it. He wasn’t down to do a speech, so I made him do it. When I heard him speak, I cried the whole time. It hadn’t even crossed my mind that he went through anything, and that’s the honest truth. And for a long time, I would listen to him, and I’d cry because you’re so focused on yourself and how it’s changed your life. You’re know, it’s like, if he would have said out loud to anybody, I’ve lost my job. I’ve got to sell my car because the wheelchair won’t fit in it. If he’d have moaned about anything like that, he would have been lynched by my family and friends. His life changed so much, but I didn’t even see that. All I saw was how my life had changed. I’m the one that’s injured. I’m the one that’s lost my leg. I’m the one that’s disabled now. I never saw all the things that he had to give up continuing being part of my life, if you get what I mean.
When you’re the injured party, you can become very selfish because you only see what you’ve lost. You don’t see what other people have lost. And unfortunately, by the time you’ve come to terms with it, in Karen’s case, it was too late because Karen no longer wanted a mum to be discipling him. Because by the time I decided, Right, okay, I’m all right now, I’ve had my counseling, I’ve come to terms with it, I can start being a mum again, he was off the rails. It was too late at that point. He needed that structure throughout. But I couldn’t see what was right in front of me and how it had affected him so much and his behavior had been affected.
All right. Lisa, David, thank you very much for coming on the show. If somebody wants to get in touch with you, what’s the best way to do that?
Probably on LinkedIn. Perfect. I don’t know whether I can give you a link for that. I can also give you some links to some free resources. There’s a very short video that I did for the forklift Truck Association. I know that the statistics won’t be the same, but in the UK, there’s five workplace accidents a day. And I would imagine that where you are, again, you would think that your health and safety standards are probably one of the best in the world. That was quite shocking to me that in the UK that we’ve got…
Five a day.
There’s also a short film and I can send the link for that. So, if there’s anybody who’s listening who have got issues with forklift within their business, that they can use those resources, whether it be an induction or as a training day.
And we’ll put those in the links with the podcast episode. So, thank you very much, David and Lisa. Really appreciate you joining.
Thank You. No worries.
Thank you for listening to the Safety Guru on C-suite Radio. Leave a legacy, distinguish yourself from the pack, grow your success, capture the hearts and minds of your teams, elevate your safety. Like every successful athlete, top leaders continuously invest in their safety leadership with an expert coach to boost safety performance. Begin your journey at execsafetycoach. Com. Come back in two weeks for the next episode with your host, Eric Michrowski. This podcast is powered by Propulo Consulting.
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ABOUT THE GUESTS
Lisa Ramos was involved in a forklift accident at work in 2006, and as a result of this is now an above knee amputee. She had been working alongside her husband David Garton for several years. They offer a unique alternative to raising awareness of health & safety issues within the workplace, with their frank and honest account of her rehabilitation, and the long-term struggles that are part and parcel of adjusting to life, as a disabled person. Whilst they came to terms with what happened many years ago, the change in Lisa’s behaviour has had a lasting impact on their son Kieran.
For more information: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lisa-ramos-255505124/, https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-garton-162798150/, or contact them by email at [email protected].
Please watch a short film made that is based on the first 12 months after the accident and that demonstrates the impact it had on Lisa, Dave and her 13 year old son Kieran.
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