According to KOMO News, one Seattle man is using his unfortunate workplace injury as a way to educate children about the importance of workplace safety.
Local man Matt Pomerinke lost his arm when he was just 21 at his first job in a paper mill. He cites lack of proper training as the cause of his disfiguring accident.
Now, he works with the Injured Young Workers Program to equip children with the essential knowledge regarding workplace safety.
It’s true that teenagers have a higher risk of getting hurt on the job than adults. In 2015, 4,836 workers were killed on the job, and there are about twice as many accidents involving teenagers as there are adults.
Pomerinke is using his experience as a young adult to help educate children at high schools all over the state, seeking out students who may be searching for summer jobs in particular.
“The main thing that I always ask kids to do is take training seriously, and ask questions, just put yourself out there,” he said. “I didn’t, I just rolled with it, and I ended up getting hurt out of it. The more questions you ask, the better you are at your job, the better likelihood you have to make it through without injury.”
However, lack of proper training isn’t the only cause of workplace accidents. In fact, close to 70% of warehouse injuries involved accidents by well-trained personnel.
Still, the program has been around for seven years, and Pomerinke is making connections with these kids by serving as a first hand example.
“A lot of kids are fearless, they don’t think an injury is ever going to happen to them,” he said. “I know I thought the same thing when I was younger, and it does happen, and I’m proof of that.”
Pomerinke says the reaction he gets from children is ‘incredible.’ He says he’s spent 15 minutes or more answering their myriad of questions after his presentation.
Although Pomerinke probably can’t take all the credit, workplace accidents in the United States are trending downwards overall. While 14,000 workers were dying on the job every year in the 1970s, only 5,000 fatalities are reported today.
Of course, the decline of manufacturing jobs plays a large role in that trend, but increased awareness and better safety equipment has also helped. And while overall workplace accidents are going down, fatalities are going up in one industry in particular — construction jobs.
That makes it more important than ever that programs like this teach young teens about the value of safety on the job, whether they’re working construction or flipping burgers over their summer vacation.
“My goal is to make sure no kid has the same accident I had,” Pomerinke said. “If I can keep even one kid from facing injury, it’s worth it.”