By Danica Pascua, Production Geologist, Musselwhite Mine
At Goldcorp, our safety vision is Safe Enough For Our Families. That’s the standard we aim for, and this commitment is one of our defining strengths. Whether incorporating innovative new technology, sharing safety lessons across sites or examining our workplaces every day to identify potential issues, our highest priority is the safety of our people. This also means being responsible for more than just our individual selves, it means being responsible for the safety of our colleagues and everyone around us. However, our attention to safety should not stop once we leave work. In honour of today’s World Day for Safety and Health at Work, Goldcorp employee Danica Pascua shares her painful lesson in why we need to be aware of potential safety risks at all times.
My name is Danica and I was off work on disability for 14 months because of a simple choice that could have made all the difference to my health and safety.
In April 2015, my husband and I were on our honeymoon and we were driving across the US for eight days. We left Death Valley, California for our next stop near Los Angeles – five hours away. He drove for one hour and then we switched.
Behind the wheel, I started feeling tired after an uneventful hour of cruising through the flat, desert plains of the Panamint Valley. My husband offered to switch again as we passed the small town of Ridgecrest. But no. I wanted to power through and switch at the next town, which was only ten miles away.
Suddenly, I was startled awake when my husband was shouting at me to go back to my lane. I was in the opposite lane trying to pass a minivan, but a pickup truck was coming right at us!
Panicked, I abruptly returned to my lane but lost all control. Going completely off the road, our car forcefully hit the ground. I blacked out just as I started screaming.
On impact, our car had rolled over at least three times and ended up on its roof. The people from the pickup truck and minivan stopped to help us and dialed 911. If you saw the wreckage, you wouldn’t think anyone survived.
The cause of the accident? Whether I zoned out for a few seconds with my eyes wide open or fell asleep at the wheel, I still don’t know. All I know is that I recognized I was tired and didn’t stop driving right then and there.
Except for a mild concussion and small bruises on his lungs, my husband was completely fine. I, on the other hand, suffered significant injuries. I broke my left wrist and a finger, and more seriously, my neck: three of seven vertebrae were fractured and the surrounding ligaments were severely damaged.
I had five operations during the first five months after the accident, two of which involved major surgeries on my spine. For nearly eight months, I had to wear neck braces, including a five-pound halo brace that was screwed into my skull to immobilize my neck as my fractures healed. My only physical activity was walking, and I was thankful I could do that given the gravity of my injury. As I healed, I moved on to another seven months of physiotherapy and exercise to restore the movement in my stiff and painful neck and get myself fit for work.
So finally, after a long year and two months later, I returned to work underground at Musselwhite.
My experience has completely changed the way I view my safety and the safety of others. Now everything I do revolves around making the right choices and doing the right things because I don’t ever want to get hurt again. I don’t want to go through all that again – all that pain I brought to myself and my loved ones; all that hard work just so I could go back to work, do all the things I love, and live a normal life. I act safely to protect my co-workers so they don’t get hurt and have to go through that either.
Though no one deserves to get hurt from making an unsafe decision, I definitely learned my lesson. Such a simple choice between driving and not driving when I felt a bit tired resulted in me breaking my neck and being so close to either getting killed or paralyzed at 26 years old. Or maybe killing other people too.
Since then, I promised myself to choose to be smart and safe all the time, not just at work. Because maybe the next time something happens, I may not get a second chance again.