I’m from a little town called Green River, Wyoming, where it gets downright cold in the winter. I grew up freezing my butt off each morning waiting for the bus, and vividly recall when our bus plowed into a neighborhood yard (crushing an old wagon wheel that was the central feature of their landscaping) due to an icy road. So folks who live in Green River become immune to snow and ice. My parents still live in Green River, in the same home I grew up in.
This month, my sweet and funny mom Lynn slipped on bonded ice/snow as she got out of her car after church, shattering her ankle and fracturing her tibia. Her injury has been painful and hard on her and my father, who is being the best caretaker. Overall, she is OK and recovering well. She’s in good spirits but laid up for 8+ weeks as her body heals and adjusts to the steel plates that were added during surgery.
My mom is amazing, and her sense of humor and bubbly personality is making it a lot easier on all of us, since she isn’t one to dwell or feel sorry for herself. But as I reflect on the image in my mind of her laying on the street by her car, severely injured and alone (very briefly thank God), it strikes close to home.
Many thoughts rushed through my head when I got the call from my Dad: what if my Dad hadn’t been home when she fell, or hadn’t heard her calling for him? What if she had hit her head? But one thing that never came up in my mind or in conversations with my parents was ‘who was at fault?’. Growing up where I did, it is built into my mind that if there is snow and ice on the ground, you could slip. Its an accident, another risk of living.
Working for SIMA for nearly 15 years, I’ve become a little more immune to the concept of a “slip and fall” accident. In the industry these incidents are often thought of as a challenge to overcome, driven by insurance premiums and fraudulent claims. And there is a lot of truth to those issues, and there is a lot of fraud. But there is also a danger to that thinking; we can can start to lose one of the most important connections to the true value our industry provides.
At the end of the day, how many terrible accidents have been avoided due to the work snow professionals provide? How many near misses in a parking lot could have resulted in a more serious injury (or worse)? I wish we knew that number, and if we did we would shout that statistic to the world. But our fate in this industry is to be a bit invisible most of the time — the true value provided by all of you battling the elements is hardly noticed when you do your jobs well.
Sometimes, real people like my mom simply slip and fall on ice and snow — they don’t try to sue, they just accept the risk as part of life and try to move forward. I want to keep the faith that the work SIMA is doing, and the professionalism and skill our members exhibit every day, will persevere, reducing the chance for slip and falls and keeping our loved ones safe in winter weather.
Oh and one more thing: I love you, Mom!