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Dublin: 7 °C Sunday 17 November, 2019
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"When I woke up I couldn't move arms, legs - so I had to start from scratch again"

Construction Safety Week is trying to get people to be safer in the workplace.

Source: HSAchannel/YouTube

SHANE GANNON (41) WAS working on a construction site in 2013 when he received a serious injury.

Shane was trying to move an A-frame – a basic structure designed to carry a load – that was full of long sheets of glass.

When he lifted the A-frame to get the glass out of it, the structure fell onto him with force.

“[It] broke my jaw, broke my chin and then the fire brigade arrived,” said Shane.

“The A-Frame was still over my head as I was lying on my back and I couldn’t move.”

Shane was rushed to hospital with serious injuries to his face and spinal cord.

“When I woke up I couldn’t move arms, legs – so I had to start from scratch again,” he said.

To go from lying in a bed for two months – to learning to stand up even, sit up even.

Shane and Robert Shane Gannon (left) with Ronan Langan, senior physiotherapist at the National Rehabilitation Hospital. Source: HSA via YouTube

Workplace safety 

Shane’s story is being highlighted as part of Construction Safety Week which takes place this week.

The week is being organised as a joint venture between the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), the National Rehabilitation Hospital (NRH) as well as the Construction Industry Federation and the Construction Safety Partnership Advisory Committee.

According to figures, the construction sector has the highest rate of accidents out of any workplace environment.

There have been 48 people killed in construction-related accidents since 2011.

Last year, 11 people died as a result of construction-related accidents; three people have died so far this year.

Despite there being a decrease in construction activity in Ireland during the recession – the fatality rate of workers in the construction sector increased from 4.1 deaths per year in 2010 to 9.4 in 2013.

23/12/2015 Construction Sites Industry File photo of a construction site in Dublin's Docklands last year. Source: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

There were 605 reported construction site accidents reported last year.

The organisations involved are concerned that an expected increase in construction activity in the coming years could lead to an increase in accidents if trends continue.

To try to combat this, they have launched a series of videos entitled In the Blink of an Eye highlighting the stories of workers who have suffered in workplace accidents and the rehab they had to go through at the National Rehabilitation Hospital (NRH).

As well as the video of Shane’s story (which was released yesterday), the stories of two other workers will be highlighted over the coming days. There will also be advice given out on how to avoid accidents at the workplace.

350 construction sites across the country will be targeted with a particular focus on working safely at height and giving advice to small contractors.

The week comes after it was revealed last week that funding for workplace safety initiatives through the HSA had been cut by 47%.

The HSA said last week that it was hoping to “do more with less” following the announcement.

Rehab

Shane began a long road to rehabilitation following his accident, one that he is still on.

“After the accident I couldn’t move, I had no movement whatsoever of anything at all so… It’s so hard,” he said.

rehab Rehab work at the National Rehabilitation Hospital. Source: HSA via YouTube

“I was on a catheter, I couldn’t use my bowels or anything, all that was gone.

You had to be showered, you had to get someone to brush your teeth, you had to get someone to shave you, I couldn’t do anything like that.

It took months to get Shane back on his feet after the accident, and from there he had to learn how to walk again and build back up the muscle he had lost.

“Even to this day I still need help… You’d never wish it on your worst enemy whatsoever,” he said.

As well as affecting him, he said the accident had a big impact on his family.

“Abigail, my daughter, she’s eight years of age… Best little thing ever,” he said.

“It was so hard lying there, say at times when I couldn’t cuddle her… It was fierce hard for a long long time.

But I’m getting there

For more information on Construction Safety Week visit HSA.ie.

Read: ‘Shocking and dangerous’: HSA funding for workplace safety initiatives cut by almost a half

Read: Man dies in Cork construction site accident

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About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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