BLINDED BY BEER KEG
Safety advocate on a mission to prevent more injuries
IT WAS the night Gavan McGuane will never forget and one he’s determined to spend the rest of his life sharing with workers.
In 1994 Mr McGuane was left blind in one eye and with partial vision in the other after tripping over in a cold room and having a beer keg full of cleaning solution explode in his face.
This week he visited Gladstone workplaces to talk to industry employees about how the rushed decisions he made that night changed his, and his family’s, lives forever.
“I was a proud captain coach of the Southport Sharks,” he said.
“I was married with two sons and had a pretty good life.
“That accident taught me how quickly it can all get taken away from you.”
THAT ACCIDENT TAUGHT ME HOW QUICKLY IT CAN ALL GET TAKEN AWAY FROM YOU
IN 1994, Gavan McGuane was doing the right thing for his workmates when everything went horribly wrong.
“I was working in a hotel and was about to clean the keg lines in the cold room,” he said.
“I was only supposed to be at work for half an hour but I’d been there for nearly an hour.
“I’d done the job a thousand times, but as I rushed into the cold room I didn’t put on the goggles, the floor was slippery and the rubber mat had a curled edge.”
Everything had lined up to cause an accident Mr McGuane will never forget.
“In all the panic and mayhem, I tripped on the mat and fell onto a keg full of cleaning agent,” he said.
“My hand pushed down the plunger and the pressurised alkaline contents sprayed directly into my face.”
The accident left him blind in one eye and with 15 to 20 per cent vision in the other.
“The pain was incredible,” Mr McGuane said.
“I wound up spending 57 days in hospital.
“I had an eye transplant and that’s like having a lung and kidney transplant but the eye’s still closed.”
During his recovery Mr McGuane was determined to take a positive out of a negative.
“I’m a safety advocate now for Workplace Health and Safety,” he said.
“I know how quickly it can all be taken away from you.
“I travel around Queensland sharing my story with workers because I don’t want to see anyone end up looking like this, or hurt or dead.”
WH&S Officer Jade Sawtell said the feedback from workers after Mr McGuane’s presentations was excellent.
“People really take it in,” she said.
“Gavan does his story, then we do our presentation afterwards and you can see they’re really listening.”
She had the following advice for anyone at work considering taking risks or are unsure about an unsafe condition or task.
“If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it,” Ms Sawtell said.
“Seek advice from your safety people or talk to your employer.
“If you’re still not sure, call WH&S 1300 369 915.”
Mr McGuane agreed with her. “Take a step back, don’t rush and do the job properly,” he said.
“My accident happened when I was 36,” he said.
“I’m 60 now but I’m not going to retire, I’ll keep talking to workers until the day I die.”
ADVOCATING CHANGE: Workplace health and safety advocate Gavan McGuane had workers’ attention during his visit to Gladstone this week.