- BC Games
Walter Gretzky, rescue demos thrill crowds at Shipbuilders’ Square
The world’s most famous hockey dad, Walter Gretzky, told politicians and health and safety stakeholders gathered in North Vancouver on May 6 how he was almost killed on the job.
Gretzky was the keynote speaker at a luncheon at the Pinnacle Hotel at the Pier, marking the Canadian launch of North American Occupational Health and Safety Week.
“I had an accident where a frame came flying out of a manhole on the street and hit me over the head,” said Gretzky, who at the time of the incident was working as an installer and repairman for a telecommunications company. “I had a construction helmet on. [The impact] split my helmet in half.”
That blow to the head put Gretzky in a coma and resulted in deafness in his right ear. He’s also plagued by a permanent hissing sound in his inner ear.
But at Monday’s event, Gretzky wasn’t looking for sympathy. In fact, he became emotional when recounting the story of a Port Coquitlam boy who collapsed from cardiac arrest at his high school and went seven minutes without a heartbeat.
An Automated External Defibrillator (AED), on hand at his high school, saved the 14-year-old’s life and had him back in class after two weeks. Gretzky said many people are alive today because of defibrillators, and is a proponent of having these life-saving devices in schools.
Other guest speakers at Monday’s event included Andrew Cooper, president of the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering, federal labour minister Lisa Raitt, WorkSafeBC president and CEO Dave Anderson and City of North Vancouver Mayor Darrell Mussatto.
A paramedic currently on leave, Mussatto, when asked how the city can help promote occupational health and safety messages, said city hall should lead by example.
“I think the best thing we can do to support these initiatives is to make sure we have a healthy and safe work environment for our employees,” said the mayor. “It’s not permissible to have injuries in the workplace.”
In 2012, penalties were leveled against 225 B.C. employers for violating occupational health and safety regulations, according to WorkSafeBC’s annual enforcement report, released in February.
The construction sector accounted for almost 85 per cent of penalties. In total, WorkSafeBC fined eight North Shore companies in 2012, netting $49,485.
Mussatto said maybe the city should look at having some health and safety information from WorkSafeBC available for people picking up construction permits at city hall.
Following the NAOSH luncheon, guests wandered down to Shipbuilders’ Square for a public event.
Onlookers watched as Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue vessels from Station 1 (West Vancouver) and 2 (North Vancouver) staged a dramatic marine rescue in Burrard Inlet.
In another high-adrenaline rescue demonstration, a construction worker feigning distress was plucked from a crane high above the square.
The event also featured more than 20 interactive exhibits offering health and safety tips.
For more information on North American Occupational Health and Safety Week visit www.naosh.ca.
Occupational Health and Safety in B.C. — by the numbers:
- 149 workplace fatalities (142 men and seven women);
- Four young worker fatalities (between 15 and 24 years of age);
- 86 workers died of occupational related diseases, most of which are related to asbestos exposures;
- On average, WorkSafeBC accepts three fatal claims each week;
- Workplace injury and illness accounted for 2,889,324 lost days of work;
- WorkSafeBC paid out $1.6 billion in claims (2011)
Source: 2012 WorkSafeBC statistics