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The Story of Jason Anker’s Accident at Work

The story of my avoidable accident | Jason Anker (Expert Interview #2)


Here we interview Jason Anker, Chairman, and Director of Anker and Marsh. in 1993, Jason was paralysed from the waist down when he fell from a ladder. With Jason, we discuss the physical and psychological effects of the incident.

Read full transcript

– [Paul] Next up, we’re honored to welcome Mr. Jason Anker, the chairman and director of Anker and Marsh. Jason Anker was paralyzed from the waist down due to an avoidable incident on a construction site in 1993 when he fell off a ladder. He was 24 years old. His story of his life before the incident, the day of the incident, and the time spent in hospital and rehab gave his initial release from hospital and his struggle with life over the last 26 years in an honest and sometimes graphic account of the devastation the incident has had on Jason and his family and friends.


For 26 years, he was unable to talk openly about his experience of a work-related major incident. This reflected in a story that is very raw, the emotion in which he delivers this talk is strong as if it was the way the day of the incident actually happened. His unique story has a powerful impact and grabs the attention of those listening, from directors, managers, supervisoring operatives alike. He’s willing to talk openly about his experience, the physical and psychological effects of major incident.

And we are honored today to interview him for the HSE network. Asking Jason’s input and understanding of how he has realised his own health and well being in the months prior to his accident, and the direct influence on the safety decision that he made that day. We are honored today to welcome Jason Anker, the director for Anker and Marsh.


Welcome to Houston.


– [Jason] Thank you.


– And yeah. I’m really excited to interview you today for HSE Network and get your input and understanding of perhaps how you’ve realised from your own health and well being, in the months prior to your accident, which I’ll let you talk a little bit more about and the influence that’s perhaps had on the safety decision you made that day.


I know you’re traveling a lot talking about your story and the incident that happened and the time that you spent in hospital, in the rehab and the initial release from hospital and the struggle that you had with your life in these 26 years. And so, I’m really excited to hopefully talk openly about your experience with that work-related major incident and yeah, get some feedback from you. So I’ll have to say firstly, you know, honestly Jason, what I think is just amazing is what you have done and what you are doing.


It’s a real inspiration to myself, but to many more personally that I know. Obviously, the story itself, I’m sure people would like to know why you are on this incredible journey of inspiring and making people aware of how very easily major incidents can be prevented.


– Yeah. My accident was 26 years ago. I was only 24. Very inexperienced, long confidence, and fell on a ladder on a building site and it’s just one of those accidents that we hear keep happening. I didn’t go into speaking straight away.


My life…I struggled. Completely struggled. [inaudible] failed. I turned to drinks and alcohol, drugs and alcohol. Really, really struggled. I nearly killed myself along the way.


And then, 10 years ago, when I started to turn my life around a little bit and I’d start [inaudible] bringing my kids up, I met a guy who did behavioral safety. And he listened to my story and I was telling him, well, you know, what is that story. He said, “You need to share the story with the industry.”


Because it’s not stories of accidents that actually inspire people to do anything differently, it’s stories of how accidents impact on people’s lives. So obviously, you talk about your own experiences of how bad your life is but then, you go in to discuss your parents and your brothers and your sisters and your family and your friends and how they are affected by the accident.


And what’s, I wouldn’t say unique about my story because it was 26 years ago, you know, and the impact of my accident is still happening today. You know, I really still sort of struggle, not so much with me being in a wheelchair but what I’ve pulled through over the years when I was really struggling, I was at my worst, and hospital visits, and all the things that people are sort of aware of, once it actually happens to them, they’ll know the real impact that accidents have on families.


– So if I may, what do you believe were the key triggers then to the sort of poor safety decision, if you don’t mind me saying? Poor safety decision you made that day?


– Again, my story has all the usual things that went wrong. It was the unplanned work, end of shift, trying to do someone a favor, not wanting to say no, we can’t do it. So all those things that you hear of other accidents all the time. People just try and get the job, instead of saying, hang on a minute, take five, let’s start work and do this safely and just going ahead and rushing in, trying to get a job done.


And mine was a two hour job, I was asked to do it in one hour end of the day. And as contractors, you don’t want to say no to the client. So there’s that unwritten pressure being put on you that if we say no, do we get the next job? So we try to help the clientele and obviously, I had my accident. The company I was working for folded, everyone lost their jobs.


The project never got built because, you know, with bad publicity and all the knock-on effects of the accident being so serious. So just again, showing the ripple effect of accidents. It’s not just, you know, this company is going bust just because an accident on the site one day. I’m sure as much as they want us to get the job done, then, would you prefer me to say no, we’re not doing it, and then, delay on the job, then you have a fallout from trying and get the job done safely.


– How do you best feel then I guess that the incident could have been prevented? You know, what actions do you think, you know, processes should undertake to ensure this incident or similar incidences don’t replicate?


– Yeah. I mean, it was 26 years ago. Things were different, you know. There’s no procedures to follow. It was more or less get the job done. However, I come from the power station industry. So, even back then, things are well put in place.


So I had gone to a job with more knowledge of working safe, however I need to apply it. I just dropped down to the stand on the side. So where have we improved today is that all these things are in place now that people are, you know, go on courses, the equipment, the training, you know, the tickets people have to get to go on site.


And, you know, accidents will happen. And so, you ask yourself the question, can we just go down a line of rules and procedures to keep people safe or do we have to look at why people are doing it in the first place? Not just making mistakes on the day. Maybe looking at the well being of people, you know. What sort of mindset they turn up for work on the morning. Are they bringing problems from home into the workplace, you know?


And people say, you know, the more skilled jobs some people are doing, and then they’re under pressure from home, or they’ve got financial problems or these other problems in their own place, and you expect them to work safely, so for eight hours in a day. And if you break a rule, something goes wrong, straight away, we look at the safety violation, you know.


We look at the, if it’s a broken rule, a broken procedure, but we never look if the person was broken. And I think that’s sort of what we’re missing. We keep focusing on safety, safety, safety, and, you know, for me, safety is safety, health, and well being. Absolutely.


– Well, it seems like you’re on an incredible journey. And yeah, thank you very much for coming in and I’m really excited to hear you talk at HSE, North America congress. First trip to North America?


– First trip to America. Yeah. Absolutely.


– We can’t wait. Thank you very much.


– Cheers mate. Thank you.


– Thanks Jason.