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For this blog post I feel an introduction is important because you are about to learn something about me that very few people know.
For those who may not know me, my name is Tyler. I get asked quite often why I decided to work in occupational health and safety. My typical answer is “to help people”; however, I never elaborate on the underlying reason. My story is a personal one that I find difficult to talk about.
I came into this world in the ’80s and while I hate dating myself, for the purpose of this story, and for those who are like me and feel compelled to verify everything, dates are relevant to this blog post. As an 80’s baby teetering on the line of that dreaded “millennial” tag, I came into a world full of hurt and pain.
Also relevant to this post is who my grandfather is, Michael Kulikoski. Interestingly enough, his nickname was Irish Mike, despite being Ukrainian. How he got that nickname is a story for another day. He was an engineer for CP Rail who enjoyed a long career, hosting many elite titles and records as well as being the Division President of the 355 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers Union in Calgary and a staunch advocate for rail safety. Mike was an instructor who mentored Engineers. A fun fact that I discovered about him in railway forums, his trainees report that they never paid for a meal while Mike was training them. While he was a tough man (perhaps how he got his nickname), he was also full of immeasurable kindness.
Mike was nearing his retirement years when one dark day in January, he fell victim to a workplace accident. His train was coming into Medicine Hat when they experienced brake failure, causing a runaway. Several of the crew members jumped off the train, driven from fear of the impending crash. My grandfather ensured the people around him were stowed away in the nose of the train, while he worked to mitigate the oncoming catastrophe. Ultimately, he was the only person who lost their life that day, but it was his actions aboard the train that saved the lives of many others.
Why I do what I do, is for this reason. To help people. To help people know their grandparents. To help people know their fathers, to know their mothers. To help people watch their sons and daughters grow up.
I don’t want families to experience the pain that mine did. Workplace tragedies have everlasting effects that no one should ever have to experience. I was too young to understand what happened at the time; however, I know firsthand what it’s like to never really know my grandfather. To grow up looking at a picture of someone you hardly met, to not hear the sound of their voice and watch over time as the memories fade.
We all have responsibilities, obligations, “stuff” that needs to be done to work “safe”. You have likely heard the catchphrases that try to get you to pay attention. Someone has likely tried to convey the reasoning behind safety rules or procedures, but you may not have listened. My advice - follow them. Do your part. Follow the rules. Most importantly – be engaged. Use your voice, lend your opinion, help the people around you turn your work environment into one that can be worked in without fear of consequence. It’s worth your time.