Let’s talk about hard hats

A couple of years ago I was visiting a friend of mine. His 18-year-old son, who recently got his first full-time job on a construction site, was complaining that he had to wear a hard hat at work.

“It’s too awkward,” he said. “It’s too hot, I get too sweaty with it, and it’s really uncomfortable.” I responded: “Wait a minute, Shaun. I’m going to tell you why they make you wear a hard hat.”

Here’s the truth people like Shaun need to hear:

You might be the safest worker in the country, but there’s a guy on the second floor of this construction site who isn’t as safe as you and he lets a hammer fall. Now, if this hammer hits you in the head and you’re wearing a hard hat, well, it can still hurt you and you’re going to know about it, but chances are you’re probably not going to be that seriously injured.

But if you’re not wearing a hard hat, here’s what is going to happen. It’s going to hit your skull and it’s going to fracture your skull. It’s also going to rupture the blood vessels that go around your brain. It can rupture blood vessels that are actually in your brain.

These blood vessels are going to bleed under quite high pressure, so you’re going to end up getting a puddle of blood in and around your brain. This puddle is going to get bigger and bigger. Something has to give, and because your skull is hard it isn’t going to give. But, because your brain is soft and mushy, it is going to give. If you’re lucky, they get you to a big hospital where a neurosurgeon can go inside and relieve that pressure.

Now you have a brain injury, so you’re going to end up in a brain injury ward where you might be for several months. Then you’re going to get transferred to a place similar to a nursing home where you’ll be in a wheelchair — actually, you’re going to be tied to this wheelchair because you don’t have muscle control anymore. And the minute they undo these straps that hold you into the wheelchair, you’re going to go face first onto the tile floor and there’s not a darn thing you’re going to be able to do about it.

But there’s this nurse who is just a couple of years older than you. She’s attractive and a lot of fun to be around. She makes you laugh and helps you back into the wheelchair. And you think to yourself, ‘Boy, I’d really like to ask you out,’ but let’s be serious Shaun. She’s not going to date a guy who’s in a wheelchair, can’t remember his name half the time and has to wear diapers. You’ll never be more than just friends with her. But she’s so nice to you, she gives you the best seat in the house and wheels you to the front picture window where you can watch the cars go up and down the street.

In fact, you see a carload of your friends go by. Actually, they would be your ex-friends now because they have stopped visiting you several months ago and you’re angry at them for it.

Now it’s dinner time and someone wheels you to the table. They put a bib on you — you have to wear a bib now because you can’t feed yourself properly.

A nurse you don’t really like is going to feed you now because the nurse that you do like is going off to a party because it’s Friday night. That hurts....

So now it’s bedtime. Someone wheels you back into your room that you share with three other people and helps you get into bed. After being tucked in, you lie there and start thinking. Then you start doing what you do every night — you cry yourself to sleep. Just before you do sleep, one thought goes through your head, the same thought that goes through your head every night just before you fall asleep. “My God, I have another 50 years of this.”

That’s why you wear a hard hat, Shaun.

Martin Lesperance is a Calgary-based firefighter/paramedic, author, speaker and editor of an online safety newsletter. To contact him or receive a free subscription call 1-888-278-8964 or visit www.safete.com.

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