(Editor’s note: Russ Youngstrom’s compelling message has been made into a video “It Happened by Choice.” AGC members can purchase it for $175 by contacting Penny Schmitt 206-284-0061. Click here to view a segment of it on YouTube.)
“Ninety-nine percent of the time it’s okay but that one time it affects you and your family” says Pete Campbell Safety Director for BNBuilders.
Even as safety practices and safety statistics improve in the construction industry Campbell knows that just one split-second decision can change everything. To help make that message personal BNBuilders recently brought Russ and Laurel Youngstrom to speak at three different company safety meetings recently.
The Youngstroms talk frankly about the tragic day 16 years ago when Russ working as a commercial painter unhooked his fall-protection lanyard and fell 30 feet breaking his back and becoming a paraplegic.
“We do a lot of fall protection training and demonstrations” says Campbell. “The Youngstroms’ story is a compelling message of the ‘what-ifs’ when safety procedures aren’t followed. Russ is a great speaker and he blames himself for taking chances. But Laurel really drives it home with her take on the impact on the entire family.”
Since his life-changing accident 16 years ago Russ and his wife Laurel have become passionate about talking to workers about their own accountability for safety on the job. Together they talk about the day his accident happened and how their lives have been affected.
Russ speaks specifically to the “risk-takers” pointing out that it’s just a matter of time before they are hurt or they hurt someone else because of their carelessness.
“The presentation by the Youngstroms helped build teamwork” says Campbell. “A lot of people talked afterwards about how they now appreciate the impact on others of taking chances. I recommend that construction companies invite the Youngstroms to make the presentation to their employees and subcontractors or to purchase and show the video.”
Photo: Russ and Laurel Younstrom visit with the crew at a BNBuilders’ jobsite.