Banged up but grateful, Derek Sang addresses Ohio Safety Congress
By Tony Gottschlich, Media Relations Public Information Officer
Derek Sang has worked his entire career in safety. He’s delivered 250 seminars on the subject across the globe, and he’s a frequent keynote speaker on the hazards of arc flash, flash fire and general safety.
The Arizona resident, who works in the flame-resistant clothing industry, also loves motorcycles, and he had racked up over a half million miles on the road without an incident until one evening in November 2016. As he entered a busy highway in Scottsdale, Arizona, a vehicle bumped his back tire, sending Sang and his $35,000 Harley-Davidson careening into a wall.
“Whether you’re at work or at home, all it takes is a split second for something to happen and change lives forever,” said Sang, speaking to a capacity audience Wednesday morning at the Ohio Safety Congress & Expo at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
The crash shattered Sang’s body and launched the 50-year-old married father and grandfather on a long, grueling road to recovery involving multiple surgeries, excruciating skin graphs and enough hardware to stock a Home Depot store. Add to it the many hours of physical and occupational therapy, the toll on family, friends and colleagues and nearly $1 million in health care bills (covered by insurance, thankfully).
And Sang blames himself for all of it.
“We rode hard, we rode fast, we were experts,” Sang said of his motorcycle club. “I was overconfident and I was complacent. The day that accident happened I thought I was better than anyone else on the road.”
What does this have to do with job safety? Sang asked. Do we take shortcuts? Are we overconfident? When we’re used to performing repetitive but dangerous tasks, it’s easy to become desensitized to it, he said. There are names for this phenomenon, including “unintended blindness” and “normalization of deviance.”
Sang challenged his audience of employers and workers to think closely about those questions and examine their mindset. “What is your safety culture?”
“Complacency coupled with a false sense of security can and do produce catastrophic results,” he said. “It only takes a split second.”