How Paralympians are changing workplace safety attitudes


Tuesday, 09 August, 2022

How Paralympians are changing workplace safety attitudes

There’s one thing that’s always guaranteed to happen when icare speaker Kahi Puru visits a workplace — and that is the safety message he delivers will be personal, memorable and no-holds-barred.

As part of icare’s Paralympian Speakers Program, the Paralympian weightlifter recently visited team members at Australia-wide building supplier Dahlsens, sharing a cuppa in the tea-room along with the hard-won insights he gained after experiencing a life-changing forklift accident.

The medal-winning Aussie athlete has never taken his success on the international stage for granted and said that in recent times, what has motivated him isn’t winning gold, but winning over the attention of at-risk workers with his powerful story.

Recently, the team at Dahlsens heard how unreported workplace hazards resulted in the loss of Puru’s leg, and that the painful journey to recovery impacted not just Puru, but his workmates, friends, family and community.

Puru shares his story not to cause alarm, but to let workers know that no matter who they are, and what role they hold, every individual in a team can make a difference to the safety of themselves and colleagues.

“Accidents can happen to anyone — at any time. Sometimes people with decades of experience in driving or operating a machine can slip up. Sometimes it’s the inexperienced staff. My message is for everyone in the workplace to play their part,” he said.

The weightlifter encourages workers to listen carefully to safety training and speak up whenever they identify a risk, no matter how small.

“Let’s all play safe! It’s a really positive message for workers,” he said.

“And the aim of sharing my real-life story is so the businesses I visit can really deeply engage their teams on the importance of workplace health and safety.”

Puru’s message resonated deeply with Nicole Iannazzone, Injury Manager at Dahlsens, who said it aligned with the wider program of safety training and awareness that the company had developed over several years.

“Kahi’s story deeply resonated with our team and will stay in our memories for many years to come. By Kahi sharing his story, one of our team may make a safer choice at work which could very well prevent a life-altering injury from happening in the future.”

Puru went on to compete at the Sydney 2000 Paralympics and now travels around NSW as part of the Speakers Program, sharing his unique stories of workplace injury to help support a culture of safety at work to drive down workplace injuries, and showing that a return to work and a return to life after injury is possible.

“I was a young man with a young family when I had my accident at work. I’ve experienced first-hand how devastating a workplace injury can be, not just for you, but also for your family and your friends,” Puru said.

Chris Harnett, icare’s General Manager Prevention, said icare’s Speakers Program was a great way to spread the message of workplace health and safety.

“Stories like ... Kahi’s bring home the ‘why?’ around injury prevention. Our ability to empathise is integral to our desire to take action to help others. Emotions are important because they motivate us. Knowing something is useful, but feeling that knowledge is what drives the impetus to act.

“With 53 workers killed in workplace accidents in 2021*, education, training and tools are crucial in building a safer work environment,” Harnett said.

According to data gathered from the icare Paralympian Speakers Program feedback survey, over 96% of companies report positive changes in attitudes towards workplace safety after involvement with icare’s Paralympian Speakers Program.

The program is run in partnership with Paralympics Australia and is free for icare customers. To find out more about the program, visit:

* Key work health and safety statistics, Australia 2021.

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