If it’s not safe, don’t do it: Nick Perry

“How do you guys enjoy the ability to stand up out of your chairs?” Nick Perry asks a class at Alberni District Secondary School.

Nick Perry holds up a catheter during a presentation to ADSS students to demonstrate the after-effects of serious injuries.

“How do you guys enjoy the ability to stand up out of your chairs?” Nick Perry asks a class at Alberni District Secondary School.

“Because at one point in my life I couldn’t do it.”

Perry was at ADSS to talk about the day 10 years ago when he was hit with1,200 kilograms of plywood at work—and also the long road after.

He applied to work at a plywood store in Victoria after deciding he’d had enough of making sandwiches at Subway.

“After six months of that, I realized I probably wasn’t cut out to be a sandwich artist,” Perry said.

“My 30 minutes of training consisted of a five tonne truck, a forklift, table saws, drill presses, a bunch of different materials and a cash register.”

Being the newest guy on the floor, Perry didn’t complain—instead he got to work on heavy machinery he wasn’t qualified to operate.

“I didn’t take into consideration that the little bit of training I received was not proper certification.”

That realization, and thousands of pounds of plywood, hit him later.

Perry got a friend hired at the shop—a friend he then trained himself.

Coming in for a day of work, Perry noticed a problem in one of the sheds.

“I noticed that 10 feet in the air was this unstrapped load of material called medite,” Perry said.

“Had I known about my right to refuse unsafe work I would’ve put a sign on it that said dangerous and walked away. But I didn’t know.”

So Perry cordoned the area off and got to work.

“I thought the safest way to do it would be to bring a bunch of material out of the shed, pick it up, back it 6-8 feet, drop it down right in front of me, put it on a pallet, strap it down and put it away.”

But with the rain starting up, Perry was in a hurry.

“I backed up, turned the forklift and immediately I lopsided the load and everything shifted.”

He hadn’t known—and no one had told him—that a drainage pipe in the yard made the ground uneven.

Unable find anyone other than his friend, Perry grabbed him and the two got to work.

“It was the blind leading the blind.”

Perry’s friend jumped onto the forklift.

“I put my arm up in the air like I had done a million times before, dropped my hand down and immediately was hit in the back with five sheets of medite,” Perry said.

“The first five sheets sent a tingly sensation  through my legs. You’ll notice I said the first five sheets—there’s more to come.”

Perry took a step forward and was slammed with another five sheets.

“It took a split second and I lost all feeling from the belly button down.”

It’s been 10 years since then and through physiotherapy, Perry has regained some use of his legs. But coming back from an injury that severed 70 per cent of his spine wasn’t easy.

“It felt like a prison centre,” Perry said of the rehabilitation facility he spent months in.

“Be safe, ask questions,” he said, pulling out a catheter he was forced to use.

“You don’t want that .”