Step out for workplace tragedies this Friday

Ladysmith is one of three sites across B.C. hosting Steps for Life walk Friday to raise awareness of and money for workplace injuries.

Shaun Mckenzie’s life changed after a work-related spinal cord injury.

Shaun Mckenzie’s life changed after a work-related spinal cord injury.

You could say that Shaun Mckenzie sees life from a different point of view.

Classified a c56 quadruplegic, Mckenzie experiences all life has to offer from the seat of his wheelchair, after a work-related spinal cord injury took away the use of his hands and legs nearly 14 years ago.

“Things change in a big way when you go from someone who’s on their feet all the time hunting, fishing and outdoors all the time [to a wheelchair],” he said. “I do all those things again, but it takes years of re-adjusting.”

“It’s like learning to live all over again.”

Mckenzie is currently one of only four Vancouver Island members on the B.C. wheelchair rugby team. He also represented Saskatchewan’s provincial team for six years. Two days a week, he travels from his Cassidy home to practise in Duncan and Victoria.

Stories like Mckenzie’s have inspired Town of Ladysmith employees to spearhead the Steps for Life walk, a five-kilometre non-competitive event to raise awareness of and money for workplace injuries.

Ladysmith will be one of three sites across B.C. hosting the event, and this will mark the second annual walk for the town.

“It’s very exciting that it’s happening here,” said Charlotte Williams, a walk organizer. “It’s very big in Ontario, and it’s moving its way west.”

The walk will be held at Frank Jameson Community Centre this Friday [May 11] in conjunction with North American Occupational Safety and Health Week.

Funds raised during Steps for Life benefit the Threads of Life, a national charity dedicated to helping families affected by workplace tragedies.

“The whole idea was to get our workers from the Town of Ladysmith to encourage our community to work safe and work to prevent any kind of workplace tragedy,” Williams said. “It doesn’t have to be something that a person would necessarily die from, but it could make a major change in a person’s life.”

Mckenzie’s life-changing accident took place in July 1998 while he was working as a moving truck driver for the Nanaimo Minute Men.

“It was just a routine day at work; I was heading up to Port Hardy to deliver a load and fell asleep at the wheel just north of Campbell River,” he recalled. “I can’t even say what brought it on; it had never happened to me before. I had stopped and picked up a fresh cup of coffee, got back in the truck and I don’t really remember anything after that.”

“Forty minutes later, they were scraping me off the highway.”

Mckenzie credits family and friends for helping him through the ordeal.

“The costs after something like this can be phenomenal,” he said. “This is an expensive gig.”

“In a million years, I would have never guessed that this was going to happen,” he added. “I don’t think anybody thinks about it until it happens.”

Last year, about 142 workers were killed on the job in B.C., and thousands more were injured, according to Williams.

Worksafe BC has donated $500 towards the local Steps for Life walk — to be donated to Threads of Life — and people are encouraged to participate and form rally teams.

There will be a two-kilometre route and a five-kilometre route to allow maximum participation, and families are encouraged to get involved. Dogs on leashes are also welcome.

The two-kilometre route will end at Aggie Hall, where the trolley will transport walkers back to Frank Jameson Community Centre.

The Ladysmith Kinsmen will be providing a hot dog barbecue after the walk. Those who are not participating but would like to help the cause can purchase a hot dog for $3.

Registration for the walk begins at 10:30 a.m., and the walk will follow at 11 a.m. For more information, call 250-245-6424 or click here.