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lisa's story. more needs to be done.

lisa ramos accidentWith deaths and injuries as a result of forklift accidents still all too common, the Fork Lift Truck Association has asked motivational speaker, Lisa Ramos, who opened the 2016 safety conference, to share her story.

Friday 24th March 2006 — a date I'm never going to forget. It was my son Keiran's 13th birthday. I was up early that morning before work to see him opening his presents before I had to leave — Always made a deal of his birthday and we had a small celebration planned for that evening.

At that time I was working for NYK Logistics in Finder, Derbyshire. My job involved admin in the Japan department and checking all the pallets that went out were the exact ones that were supposed to. I'd go around the container bays and the drivers would come to me with their pallets. Even on the day of the accident I can remember a driver coming to me with extra pallets.

There was a taped off walkway area on the floor which I always followed but it never seemed sufficient to me. It wasn't just warehouse staff around the forklifts - there'd often be loony drivers or people coming over from Toyota to check what we were doing and when you're on the same level as the forklifts, a taped-off area doesn't really give you that clear separation. There's a good reason why we have pavements out by roads — car drivers may have passed a test and got their licence, but we don't rely on just a painted line to keep them away from pedestrians.

About half an hour before the end of my shift I was heading along the walkway near the container bays carrying some paperwork, finishing off my checks for the day. The next thing I know I'd been knocked to the floor and a three-tonne fork lift truck was crushing my leg. The driver didn't actually realise that he'd hit a person. I screamed at him to get off me. As he moved the truck forwards it tore a lot of the fat and skin from my leg with it.

At that point my co-workers heard me and rushed to my side. I'd lost my glasses in the accident and every lisa ramostime I tried to sit up and ask for them I was gently coaxed back down and told that they were broken.They were trying to keep me comfortable and wouldn't let me see what had really happened. They kept telling me that I'd only dislocated my knee and I remember thinking "Oh, I can't cry or the lads will give me so much grief when I get back to work! "My partner Dave had just left to collect me from work and he arrived as the paramedics had given me drugs. At that point I'd been told that it was most likely a fracture, so I thought at most I'd end up with some pins. I couldn't see why everyone was making such a fuss and didn't understand why Dave was crying. In truth, I think I was more worried that we'd have to cancel Kern's party.

When I arrived at hospital I was told that they would probably be amputating my foot, but at that time I didn't really take this to be a serious possibility as I Still thought it was just a dislocation or a fracture. After I came around from the anesthetic I was told that my left foot had been amputated and that the skin and fat had been ripped off but they hoped it would reattach itself.

I think that my workmates' actions in not telling me the true extent of my injuries probably saved me, mentally. I went into the hospital with no idea that my life was about to be turned upside-down .Coming to terms with the reality of it gradually while still on heavy medication was a much kinder way to face my new situation. Four days later I had a second surgery where they amputated my leg below the knee and it was after this that I started to feel phantom limb pain. I experienced excruciating pain in the part of the leg that was no longer a part of me. It took quite a while before I could accept myself as being an ‘amputee’, and it took three years or more of cognitive behavioral therapy to get to the place I'm in now.

Stories like mine and those countless others are part of what makes safety drives such as the FLTA's Safety Week or Safetember campaigns so vital. More needs to be done to protect workers — be it better training, less strict time pressure, changes to the work environment or something else. So many lives are changed dramatically every day by fork lift accidents; many could have been prevented, and many more can be prevented. This article first appeared in SHD Logistics magazine.

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