The Physical and Mental Impact Of Workplace Injuries and Changing Safety For The Better

Occupational health and safety is something I talk about constantly. If things go wrong, and they do, the results can have catastrophic effects on not only the individual, but those around them too. On a recent episode of Full Production, it was my privilege to speak with Alan Newey, director of Chat Safety, and hear his story of struggle, recovery and rehabilitation after his near-fatal accident.

The Accident- Tell Her I Love Her

13th September 1999. This is a date that will forever be etched within Alan Newey’s memory. Covering a shift for another worker, a 35-year-old Alan followed the usual adjustment procedures on an industrial unguarded conveyor belt – a role he had performed more than 4,000 times before. After hearing a loud bang, he kept working for about 30 seconds and looked out into the area. Something wasn’t quite right. To his horror, he realised his dominant right arm was missing, taken off by the conveyor.

Through an adrenaline-fuelled blur, he clambered down the 30-foot ladder, screaming out for help. His teammates quickly came to his aid – pumping him with over 72 litres of blood, saline solution and adrenaline, all while Alan was losing huge amounts of blood. Alan’s thoughts suddenly turned to his wife, Kathy, and he repeatedly called out, “tell her I love her, tell her I love her,” in anticipation of his death.

Nine minutes later, the ambulance arrived.

The Struggle

The aftermath of the accident was a harrowing ordeal. Over three and a half days surgeons attempted five times to reattach his arm. Defeated, they decided to amputate.

After five weeks of intensive care in hospital, Alan was fit for release but a dark shadow hung over him, “that’s when everything changes when you get home,” he said.  He couldn’t wash or clothe himself and a once independent man was now reluctantly asking for help at every turn.

His mental health drastically declined, fuelled by a cocktail of morphine laced pain killers. Struggling to make ends meet on the measly compensation of $400 a week, Alan felt inadequate. “It sends you into a dark place, it was spiralling out of control,” later hinting at the prospect of suicide.

The Recovery

His deteriorating mental health, drug dependence and childlike reliance on his devoted wife, was causing marital strain. Slowly, Alan came to the realisation that he was about to lose his family.

His 4,000ml daily dose of prescription drugs had become an addiction and was on the verge of killing him – It was time for him to move forward. He opted in for a pain management course and successfully weaned himself off pain medication and worked on his mental wellbeing.

Fast forward a decade or so and his fortunes certainly have changed, particularly around 2015, when he became the recipient of Australia’s first mind-controlled bionic arm!

Now, there’s a new air of purpose about him. His present role as director at CNB Safe has put him at the forefront to educate workers at all employment levels on the importance of occupational safety. He hammers home the need to be confident when raising safety issues within the workplace, from the bottom up, to the top down.

It’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure the safety of the workplace if something is amiss, say something – you could just save a life.

To hear Alan’s full story click here.