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  • Writer's pictureRegion II


"It was a mild day in May with temperatures just topping 50 degrees. A young man, 23 years old woke up and left his home, his fiancée and their three children to earn them some money. He was getting ready to take a job as a driver, but in the meantime, had gotten a job with a tree removal firm. Off he went to work, never to return. In fact, when he got to work he was assigned to work a wood chipper. Had he ever used one before? Had he ever been trained in the safe use of this dangerous machine? Was there anyone around to supervise him on the first day of work? We don’t know exactly what transpired. We do know that this employer did not have Workers’ Compensation insurance, and that no one seemed to know how he became entangled in the machine and lost his life.

As part of the VPPPA, we have been identified by OSHA as having safety and health programs that exceed what is required. We have been identified as partners with OSHA to help promote the ideals that produce a place that protects workers - even those performing hazardous jobs.

Sometimes, we take for granted the machines and hazards we have in our workplace because we are familiar with them. You may drive to work every day through traffic with all kinds of possible scenarios but imagine handing the keys to your car to a 10-year-old and saying “Drive down to pick up granny at the station.” Maybe they would come back in one piece, maybe not, but isn’t that like telling this young man to work the dangerous wood chipper? We cannot forget the innocence and the vulnerability of the new worker. If the owner of the company does not know the danger, then we should remind them. Whether it is lock-out tag-out, fall protection or machine guarding, you would not send an untrained high schooler to do the job without instruction. And isn’t a 23-year-old untrained worker the same as an untrained high schooler?

We are the ones who should look at this scenario and shout that this should never happen in the workplaces of the United States, or the world for that matter. We should push for actions to prevent this from occurring. So, how? How can we push for actions to ensure that people are trained properly before doing a hazardous job? How can we talk to towns, counties, states and national leaders to say this should not happen? Tell me what you can do. Let’s talk about this and hear your ideas.

About the Author

Brenda Wiederkehr, CSC, has been a VPPPA member since 2002 and is currently the vice president at Access Health Systems, the Owner of Access Compliance and the VPPPA Region II Chairperson. Contact Brenda at"

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