Was it a Freak Accident?

STOP Cutting Corners

STOP Cutting Corners!

Words people use can have a significant impact on us. Of course you’re all familiar with “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me”, but have you heard that “Death and Life are in the power of the tongue”? There is a lot of power in words. After an injury or other significant incident people are often even more sensitive to words. There was one comment that impacted me greatly during my recovery … “I guess it was just a freak accident, eh?” … I agreed “Yeah, freak accident”, but then I thought was it really? Was that piece of wood just out to get me or was there something I did that caused the whole thing to happen. If I’m able to recreate the exact situation again does it cease to be a “freak accident”? I know what I did and I know it was dangerous. I also know that I could create the same situation that caused the injury again so I decided this was not a “freak accident” it was PREVENTABLE. The word accident carries a connotation that it is not preventable, but just happened. The word freak on the front of it seems to imply there is even less likelihood of prevention.

Recently a tragic injury claimed the life of a young hockey player because he blocked a slap shot and was hit by the puck in the neck. Many news articles claimed it was a “freak accident”, but it is abundantly clear what caused the injury. A hard slap shot could reach a velocity of more than 180 km/h and obviously could do an extreme amount of damage if it hits you. The chance of a powerful slap shot hitting you increases dramatically when you dive in front of the puck. The answer seems abundantly clear that sliding in front of a slap shot should not be a part of the game of hockey, but currently it is absolutely part of the game … the question is does it really need to be? How they respond to this tragedy is really a function of the saftey culture the NHL is trying to promote. People have questions about what type of protection they could introduce, but in a safety situation the hazard should be removed first … Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is always the last line of defence.

The game of hockey has come a long way since Jaques Plante introduced the use of a goalie mask. It appears the next progression may be to remove shot blocking from the game. This may not be as difficult as you would assume … simply making a slide worthy of a 2 minute minor would remove many of these types of injuries. Take a step back and consider: Would it really be such a bad thing for the game of hockey if more shots got through to the goalie? This change will not remove all of the potential puck injuries, but it should go a long way in removing such a blatantly dangerous action from being accepted practice.

Now back to the wording … I think sometimes it’s easier to say it was an accident or accidents just happen so that we don’t have to feel so bad that we let it happen. The fact is if you analyze a so called ‘accident’ in a thorough manner you’ll likely find that it is preventable. This is the reason the safety world refers to the cause of an injury as an incident and the same reason the media shouldn’t sensationalize a tragic incident by calling it a “Freak accident”. How do you address preventable injuries? Are you referring to them as freak accidents? Empower yourself and realize these injuries are preventable. Look at the hazards around you and brainstorm ways to address each hazard and prevent an injury.

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