Teenage musician Jack Thomas is nearing two years of “re-learning everything” after a summer job ended up costing him an arm. Now 19, the avid drummer and bassist hasn’t let himself miss a beat since a Sept. 4, 2015 workplace accident tore his right arm off at the elbow — after a conveyor belt he was maintaining suddenly lurched on from a suspected electrical fault.
“I didn't really understand or realize how easy I had it doing everything with two arms in the past,” he said. “The biggest thing I've learned is to be thankful for what I have, and live every day to the fullest, but be safe while doing it.”
Soon after his accident, which left him six days in hospital and nearly a month in a rehabilitation clinic, Thomas graduated from high school, enrolled in his “dream school,” and taught himself how to play one-handed bass and to drum like Def Leppard’s Rick Allen, also an amputee.
Thinking back on his fateful 2015 accident, Thomas said safety simply wasn’t on his mind.
“I was just 17 working a summer job,” he recalled, “and I didn't want to make my employer mad, so I didn't ask for any help. But I knew that what I was doing wasn't the safest thing. The next thing I knew, I was on the ground missing an arm.”
Research of young people injured on the job revealed that the problem isn’t simply a lack of awareness, but also feeling empowered to speak up.
As an employer it is your responsibility to provide the below to young workers:
- Ensure that young workers receive training to recognize hazards and are competent in safe work practices. Training should be in a language and vocabulary that workers can understand and should include prevention of fires, accidents and violent situations and what to do if injured.
- Implement a mentoring or buddy system for new young workers. Have an adult or experienced young worker answer questions and help the new young worker learn the ropes of a new job.
- Encourage young workers to ask questions about tasks or procedures that are unclear or not understood. Tell them whom to ask.