When I was four years old, I ran through a plate glass window. It is one of my earliest childhood memories. It was early summer, and Mom and Dad were outside enjoying a rare, humid-free Chicago evening. I remember having a nightmare and running downstairs to find my parents. I must’ve realized that they were outside, because I ran toward our side door that leads out to the driveway and detached garage.
Because it was early summer, my dad hadn’t taken the glass panels out of our storm door yet. What he did do, however, was lock the swinging screen door while he and my mother were outside. My four-year-old mind didn’t know that fact as I raced toward the door. I hit the glass at a full-on run as I pressed the push-button handle. Because the door was locked, my left arm jammed into the push-button handle while my right arm shot through the glass pane! (Author’s Note: This next part is not for the squeamish.)
The force of the impact pushed my arm completely through the glass and drove the glass up into my bicep. The initial impact also severed a tendon and artery in my wrist, and filleted my forearm from the wrist to the elbow. My dad heard the crash and came running around the side of the house to see my bloody arm dangling out of the door. Unbelievably, remarkably, miraculously, thank God-fully, I didn’t try to yank my arm out. If I had, I would’ve been typing this story with one arm and my nose.
Dad is the true hero of this story. He not only saved my arm, he saved my life. He broke the glass and carefully slid the broken pieces out of my bicep. He then applied a tourniquet to my arm while Mom called 911. Blood was everywhere, even on our cathedral ceilings. Dad told me later that I had lost over a pint of blood and it would take them months to find and clean all the blood off the walls and ceiling.
Unfortunately, that incident would be the first of many throughout my life that would label me a klutz. I’ve had a compound fracture of my femur bone (16 screws and a steel plate). I was knocked unconscious and needed four stitches in my eyebrow when a jack slipped out from under my car and nearly scalped me. I tripped over my power sprayer hose and broke my hip. I’ve had a double hernia from weightlifting, broken ribs from falling on ice, a broken wrist from a high school football game, and stitches in my head from getting hit with a baseball bat (on two different occasions). Needless to say, if there were ever a person who needed to practice safety in the workplace, it would be me.
We have been relatively pain-free at Schopen Pest Solutions since I started the company in 2006. Over the years, one of our techs fell off a ladder and broke his heel and ankle, and tore the ligaments around his ankle. He was on crutches for months. Another tech suffered from heat stroke and ended up in the hospital. We also had a tech rupture a disc in his back while bending over in a crawlspace.
As Schopen Pest Solutions grows, we’ve been focusing on making safety a priority — whether it’s regarding ladders, chemicals, coronavirus or driving. Whenever we hire a new employee, we make them read the entire company handbook with our human resources (HR) representative, Peter Gault. Safety comes up several times within the manual, including distracted driving, ladder use and sexual harassment. We also meet annually as a company and go over harassment in the workplace. After new employees meet with Peter, I make them watch four different videos on ladder safety.
This spring, Operations Manager Laura Lentz put together a wonderful safety manual. She also is working with the fire department on devising an evacuation plan for our building.
I’ve also engaged Chip Hughes, president of LabelSDS.com, to take care of our labels and safety data sheets, or SDS. The online system will replace our bulky Department of Transportation (DOT) books and keep us up-to-date on any changes to labels and SDS.
While we are on the topic of labels, we go over a different label in detail every month at our training meetings. That means we will have dissected 12 labels by the end of each year.
AN ONGOING PROCESS
Safety in the workplace is a process, and it is contagious. We recently had carpet runners put in front of all of our doors to protect our beautiful flooring — and to prevent our employees from slipping and falling during inclement weather. My wife noticed a couple of the runners were crinkling up and causing folds that people could trip over. I asked Laura to call our service company, and they replaced the faulty runners with heavier, safer runners.
Safety is something that should be preached and taught at your workplace. It is never too soon to start. You work hard to build up your business, and it would be a shame to risk it all in the name of cutting corners. Be safe, be well, and don’t forget to change your storm doors from glass to screen when Pete Schopen is around.