Not to be overshadowed by Randy Royall's harrowing personal story is his safety philosophy, which he summarizes with one acronym: "IMPACTS."
"I don't care if you're at home or out at a job. Everything you do impacts somebody," Royall told a packed audience at the 2013 National VPPPA Conference in Nashville.
As useful as they are, safety slogans are a dime a dozen. But Royall's is deeply personal. Applying just about any of these safety principles might have helped him avert an Oct. 7, 1987, workplace fall that left him paralyzed for several months.
At the conclusion of his inspiring presentation, Royall explained what each letter of "IMPACTS" should mean to you.
I – Is this job necessary, and do I need help?
If Royall had asked himself Part 2 of this question, he might very well have prevented the devastating fall that nearly killed him. Instead, he deviated from established procedure by responding to a hazmat incident alone.
"There are some big boys in this room," Royall said during his presentation. "You all think you can move the world. Maybe you can, but it just takes that long for something to change.
"Don't be afraid to ask for help, guys. Suck it up."
As a corollary to the first question: Does the job need to be completed now?
"In South Texas, we have something called heat and humidity," Royall explained. "Does the job have to be done at 3 in the afternoon, or can it be done at 3 in the morning when it's cooler?"
M – Make a plan before starting the job.
Whether you call it a job-safety analysis or job-hazard analysis (or something completely different), the pre-job planning stage "is the best opportunity to be able to identify the hazards and mitigate those hazards," Royall asserted.
P – Proceed with the plan, but only when it is safe.
"At the company I work for, we believe that we work safely or not at all," said Royall, who is an EHS specialist for Chevron Phillips Chemical.
"Anybody who walks in our facility – whether it's a visitor of the CEO – has the right to stop any job at any time [if they see an unsafe situation]. Everybody has stop-work authority."
A – Be aware and alert. The situation can change.
"We get tunnel vision so bad sometimes," Royall said. "We're watching what we're doing right here. We don't see the hazards around us.
"The situation can change. It did for me."
C – Complete the job with care and clean up.
"A clean house is a safe house, and a safe house is a clean house," as the old adage goes.
There's another way to say it.
"Put your sh#t back when you're done," Royall implored VPPPA attendees. "Clean it up."
T – Talk to others who might perform the same job.
"Shift to shift, maintenance to operations, old people to young people, it doesn't matter," Royall said. "If we had better communication, by God we would not hurt near as many people.
"We gotta learn to talk to one another."
S – Safety always.
"I guarantee there ain't a damn job out there worth getting hurt over," Royall said. "Not when you have a wife or husband or significant other or children. There is nothing worth getting hurt over. There ain't a damn job out there.
"And if you work for a company that [asks you to work in unsafe conditions], you need to be looking for a job somewhere else or reporting them."