Safety at work: ‘The biggest mistake I made was not wearing a safety helmet’

Kerryman Peadar Farrell, a part-time farmer who runs a construction business with his son Peter, has no recollection of the accident that almost claimed his life.
Safety at work: ‘The biggest mistake I made was not wearing a safety helmet’

Rushing to finish plastering a new house, he fell through a broken wooden plank and suffered a traumatic brain injury.

“When I woke up first, I didn’t know my wife, my family, didn’t know I had cows or a farm or what I had,” he recalls in an online video.

A positive attitude and the help of a loving family has helped pull him through, but he still laments the fact he wasn’t wearing a safety helmet when the accident happened.

“In over 40 years plastering, I never even cut a finger. We were plastering a gable-end house when the accident happened. We were putting up some scaffolding. My son was just passing up a second plank when the one I was standing on broke. I think I hit my head off a scaffolding bar but I’m not sure. I couldn’t talk. My speech is not as good as it used to be but I’m coping with that.

“The biggest mistake I made was that I was not wearing a helmet and we had three helmets in the van. We were rushing too much. If I had been wearing a helmet it wouldn’t have happened."

Peadar has trouble remembering the accident or its aftermath but his son cannot forget it.

“Dad fell on the ground and I realised we were in big trouble,” he says. “He was unresponsive. I realised it was serious because there was blood on the ground so I got onto the ambulance service and I held his head for a while. It took about an hour overall.”

Shane Gannon from Co Westmeath, meanwhile, suffered a serious spine injury when a sheet of glass fell on him in 2013.

He has spent the last three years in recovery and, like Peadar, wants to share his experience through online videos by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) to promote Construction Safety Week, launched yesterday by the Minister for Employment Pat Breen.

The series of videos, entitled In the blink of an eye, focuses on three construction workers (including Peadar and Shane) who, after experiencing serious workplace accidents, were treated at the National Rehabilitation Hospital (NRH).

They discuss the effects of their accidents on them and their families.

Also featured are medical professionals from the NRH who speak about the types of injuries they treat along with the physical, mental, and financial consequences of a serious construction accident.

Speaking at the launch, Mr Breen said: “I am extremely impressed by the bravery and honesty of these three men. They, along with their families, have opened up and told their stories in the hope that others would not have to suffer as they have.

“The overall message is powerful and clear: due to the nature of construction work, the consequences of accidents can be devastating to the injured party and to their family and friends.”

Martin O’Halloran, CEO of the HSA, described the videos as hard-hitting and emotional. “We believe accident prevention is hugely important and these videos will make anyone think twice before taking unnecessary chances,” he said.

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