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Scarred plumber fronts PPE campaign

22 Oct 19 A plumber from Leeds who survived a potentially fatal accident at work is fronting a campaign to build awareness that not all PPE is the same.

Michael Goodall, 31 and planning his wedding, was left “looking like a monster”, in his words, after the grinder he was operating shattered and hit his face. One day in the sumer of 2019 he was just cutting the last metre of tarmac needed to bury a cable when it all went horribly wrong.

The grinder left him with a cut down his face, a shattered eye socket and cheek bone and limited vision in one eye.

But it could have all been so much worse but for the good fortune that instead of wearing his usual cheap sunglasses, on that day his colleague Paul Smithson had lent him a pair of £3 safety glasses.

Michael claims that they not only saved his eye; they saved his life. A piece of metal lodged into the glasses instead of his skull.

“It was so quick, there was no warning that it was going to break and I couldn’t dodge it,” he says, "but when it hit my face it felt like my whole skeleton shook. I immediately knew it was serious.

“There was a lot of thick blood and I couldn’t see out of my right eye. My colleague Paul ran over with a cloth and applied pressure while calling an ambulance. I waited just six minutes for it to arrive, but it felt like the longest six minutes of my life.”

However, although the outcome could easily have been worse, it could also have been much better too, if only he had known more about personal protective equipment (PPE)

“Before the accident, I knew very little about what level of protection I needed, and I’m not alone in that,” he says. “For instance, few people know about categories for rating the level of protection given by PPE, like protective eyewear. I didn’t know the safety glasses I was wearing were rated F, which is the lowest rating, so they weren’t suitable for the job at all. You need a lot better protection, such as a Grade A high energy impact full-face visor for grinding.

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“But because of this, I thought the safety glasses were enough. I now know they don’t protect you from injury. However, if I hadn’t had those Arco glasses on, I wouldn’t have an eye and the force of the blade could have gone into my brain - I could have died. Paul and those glasses saved my life. But I should have been better equipped.”

After the accident, Michael shared his story on social media to help raise awareness and thanked the manufacturer of the safety glasses that had saved his life.  The manufacturer, Arco, responded by inviting him to its Leeds branch. “They gave me information, told me what personal protective equipment is out there and informed me about the full-face grind mask, which could have prevented my injuries,” he says. They also kitted him out properly.

Arco sector marketing manager Claire Langley says: “Accidents like Michael’s are all too common. Few workers are aware of the correct PPE they need to ensure they can work safely and effectively. Every year 71,062 work-related injuries are reported and 9,000 are directly related to PPE.”

Michael Goodall is now teaming up with Arco to spread the safety message and ensure no one has to go through what he went through – not just the various operations to fix the damage to his face and eye, including a three-hour operation after the accident, but also dealing with the after-effects that left him with low self-confidence.

“When I came out of surgery my face was really swollen. After two weeks, the swelling started to go down and I was able to open my eye, but everything was white due to a protective cataract that had formed, meaning I needed more surgery. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to see again and it was really getting me down. I didn’t want to go out and I didn’t want anyone to see me. I felt quite self-conscious. I get married in a couple of years, and I couldn’t see and had a scar down my face, it was devastating for everyone. My daughters are four and six and I looked like a monster – that’s taken some time to get over.”

Now he wants to make a difference,

“In anything you’re going to do, think: what is the worst possible outcome? If it’s something you definitely don’t want to happen, then make sure it’s not going to happen. Take the right precautions, don’t rush and don’t cut corners.

“By sharing my story, I want people to see what could happen if you don’t wear the proper personal protective equipment… It’s easy to just want to get the job finished. But, at the end of the day, get home to your partner, your kids –  just get home safe. There’s always tomorrow to finish it. Just be safe.”

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