Teamsafe is a workplace safety program with a real difference. Teamsafe is Spinal Cord Injuries Australia’s (SCIA) workplace safety and injury prevention program designed to elevate your team's awareness of safety in the workplace and remind of the dangers of complacency.

All presenters from Teamsafe are SCIA ambassadors have themselves sustained a spinal cord injury. They know first-hand the real story of why safety is important and deliver their message to enhance your Occupational Health and Safety programs.

David Crawford at the age of 27 was an avid soccer player, surfer, golfer and tennis player. He had begun a building career after completing his apprenticeship as a Carpenter & Joiner. He never imagined that a simple job on suburban Sydney home would change his life.

"It was 3pm on Wed 10th April 1991. A section of the roof that I was standing on gave way underneath me and I fell 4.8 metres and fractured my neck at C6 and C7," he said, adding that he was not wearing a harness and his warnings to his boss about the structural integrity of the roof he was on had gone unheeded.

"I also suffered a stab wound to my forearm where the wood chisel went to the bone, while my claw hammer dug deep into my lower right back, damaging my kidney."

David was rushed to Royal North Shore hospital for emergency surgery on his spine and other injuries.

"I woke in intensive care. I had no movement from the shoulders down and no sensation from the chest down. I was terrified."

His first thoughts were how he was going to continue living. He was now totally reliant on nursing staff and family for everything, from feeding to bathing.

Life can change dramatically in the blink of an eye

The fall damaged his C6/C7 vertebrae – He had to learn to live with quadriplegia and rely on a wheelchair for mobility. He retrained as a building supervisor and also got drafting qualifications.

In 2006 he heard that Spinal Cord Injuries Australia (SCIA) had set up Teamsafe, a workplace safety and injury prevention program. When the opportunity was offered he didn’t hesitate to train to be an ambassador and is now proud to be the coordinator of the program.

Teamsafe complements an organisation’s work health and safety (WHS) program by presenting to the organisation’s management and staff the perspectives of those who have experienced life-changing injuries at work and know first-hand how important it is to watch out for their workmates safety.  By putting a human face on why following safety processes is so important.

The most important message is "if you are unsure it’s safe, stop and reassess".

Speak and Listen:

David’s accident resulted from a design flaw in the scillion roof he was working on.

"The rafters were not structurally connected to the beam and while I had pointed that out to the architect and builder, they told me to build the roof as per the original design," he said.

Resultantly, David pleads with workers to speak up about safety, and for management to listen.

"I spoke up but my concerns were not heard and it cost me my life, my legs, my hands," he said.

Safety Mindset:

Height safety equipment was virtually non-existent on domestic sites back in 1991, according to David, with his accident and subsequent insurance battle leading to stricter domestic fall protection standards.

Despite this, he said there is still a complete disregard for personal safety on many sites, particularly smaller ones, but also on some larger sites.

"Guys have this mindset that 'it will never happen to me'."

However statistics show otherwise. Every single day, some 21 Australians suffer serious injuries from a fall at work and require a week or more off – with six weeks off being the average. 21 people. Every, single, day.

"I constantly see guys standing on roofs without harnesses. I see plumbers erecting cleaning gutters. I see tradesmen hanging over the edges. They have no fall protection, no harnesses, nothing," David said, adding that many tradespeople only have a harness in the ute to avoid a fine from Workcover.

"Well the harness is not going to help you unless you’re actually wearing it," he exclaimed.

Life Impact:

While the 21 people who are injured falling from height each day might not all suffer the devastating injuries David did, many will.

"The impact on my life has been massive," he said.

"Socialising is very difficult, not due to my mindset but due to access – actually getting to and from venues," David said.

"It’s also had a huge impact on my family’s life. The ripple effect of my injuries are still impacting people today, 26 years later."

"We need to drive home what happens when things go wrong working at heights."



Attitude Foundation

How a simple carpentry job led to quadriplegia