Perry’s story puts face on safety for Cowichan students

"I consider myself a soldier for safety," said Nick Perry, injured 14 years ago in a workplace accident and now a WorkSafe BC ambassador.

"I like being on the front line in the community, spreading a positive message to employers and students about workplace safety and awareness."

Perry’s story is one of determination to overcome tragedy. But, he points out, tragedy doesn’t need to happen.

He gave two talks at Cowichan Secondary and one at Quamichan on Jan. 12.

"They were very well received. I don’t think I’ve been to Quamichan before but I’ve been to Cow High a few times. I’ve been doing it for about 10 years now," he said.

He’s tried to get around most of Vancouver Island and other parts of the B.C. Interior.

He was injured at a lumberyard in Victoria in 2001.

"I worked there for six months and after some quick training, I was left in a lot of difficult positions where I had to make decisions. I got some of my friends hired on with me and we were left in a position one day with some unstrapped material on an uneven surface on the forklift."

The lumber pile fell. "I happened to catch about 10 sheets of it in the back," he said.

He became an incomplete paraplegic but didn’t give up.

"After going through three years of rehabilitation and them telling me I was never going to walk again, I walked away from that accident.

"Now, I’m spreading a positive message at schools about safety and what WorkSafe BC is doing in the prevention area but also about getting away from the paraplegia and out of the chair," he said.

"I tell them that if we put the same effort into being safe in the workplace as I had to put into my rehabilitation, then this kind of stuff doesn’t have to happen."

Perry said that he enjoyed his sessions in Duncan.

The middle school students are just getting into the workforce so it takes more effort to reach them, he said.

"They were less than excited at the start," he said, "but once I got into my presentation I sort of silenced them with safety. Then they began to ask questions and we established a good rapport. The older students are always interested."

Perry said he has spoken on occasion to big groups in auditorium presentations but really enjoys speaking to individual classes as he was able to this time because it allows him to bring his message closer to the students.