I haven’t published a post like this one for a while but I found Peter’s story very compelling. I had a few thoughts when reading this……… I agree that we all need to speak out but, perhaps more importantly, I think that we need to do more ASKING OUT (yes I know what you are thinking right now but its not about that). For more on asking out please see Humble Inquiry. Peter’s article also highlights how important it is to have good followers in the workplace, those who will and can speak out – you cannot be a good leader without them! See Leadership, Risk and the Zone of Reciprocal Relationship

Speaking Out

Guest Post by Peter Carey

stop silenceIf I had said something, if I had told him, I knew it wasn’t right, what if it was me?

The importance of speaking out when you know something just isn’t right or hasn’t been done, can and will make the difference, the difference between, if you’re lucky enough to make it home or not, and if not whether you survive or not. The outcome could come down to whether you spoke about what you knew or what you saw, could you live with the conscience of knowing your words or actions would have made that difference, if only you had spoken out???

It was July 1999, working for a transport company driving a 45 tonne truck & dog delivering sand & soil earning a living, life was good when I noticed the truck was having trouble stopping, I notified the boss and asked that it be fixed before I continued to drive. I was asked to identify the problem which I did, I even placed the broken/faulty parts on the desk, I was then asked to fix the problem which I suggested he organise a licensed mechanic and that until he did I would not drive the vehicle. The idea of a fully laden truck traveling at speed with no brakes approaching traffic in any situation let alone stopped traffic at lights is any truck driver’s nightmare. There were other drivers operating other trucks within the same work site, I stayed home until the issue was fixed, I was comfortable with the fact I spoke up, I notified the boss of the issue before someone was hurt, I believed I had done what was necessary to prevent a potential fatal incident from occurring, I was wrong!!

I received notification that the brakes had been fixed and that I could continue my duties transporting loads from one location to another some 65km away, it was the fourth trip for the day fully loaded, traveling over a crest commencing a downhill approach to a set of traffic lights that had turned red, as per any normal approach to traffic lights I applied the brakes and commenced to gear the truck down, only I had NO BRAKES!!!!!!!. I had cars beside me, cars stopped in the right lane at the lights, I was in the centre lane with a fully loaded semi-trailer stopped in front of me, with nowhere to go, no brakes and gaining speed I hit the truck in front of me ploughing him through the intersection, rolling my truck in the middle of the intersection. Luckily the other truck driver, his wife and daughter who were in the truck with him were not injured, though understandably shaken, they also could have been seriously injured.

I was left with 9 years of recovery after requiring major spinal surgery, including an electronic spinal cord stimulator implant, having to learn to walk again, and a live changing unexpected incident on my lap. I learnt the importance of EVERYONE speaking out!!!! The other drivers knew that the broken parts in the truck braking system had been welded back together rather than being replaced at a cost of $12.50 each, the other drivers knew that I was driving out of the yard in a death trap on wheels, the other drivers knew that this was a common attitude towards safety within their workplace and the vehicles they were operating.

The other drivers now know, if they had have said something I wouldn’t have driven the truck that day, they now know the importance of speaking out, but no more than I do, it is for this reason that I retrained myself toward becoming a well sort after safety professional, a safety professional who understands firsthand the importance of workplace safety & speaking out!!!! What else could the other drivers say but SORRY! When it all went wrong, they now they say something when they see something.

After 10 years in safety, Peter started his company, Allsafe Business Compliance consulting was developed and through communication begun saying something about the importance of speaking out about safety, to more companies, business’s and workers. Allsafe Business Compliance now travels throughout Australia and aboard consulting and providing services required in taking safety to the next step within various business sectors.

Editors Addendum:

This story reminds me of the poem by Don Merrell – I Could Have Saved a Life That Day

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