Employee’s use of safety tip helps reduce injuries in wreck

  • Posted: Wednesday, August 10, 2022, 7:53 am

A random safety fact helped save an employee's life

Anyone who has stepped foot onto Y-12 National Security Complex is aware of the importance placed on safety. Trainings, signs, procedures, and more are all put into place to help employees and visitors return home in the same, if not better, condition than they arrived. For one employee, remembering a random safety fact from a training long ago and implementing a small but impactful change is attributed to helping save her life during a recent wreck.

Quality Assurance Specialist Susan Donnelly was driving a rental SUV on I-81 in Virginia to a trail race she’d been waiting two years to attend. She was in the left lane when she came up over a hill to see traffic at a standstill. She stopped quickly and easily behind the next car in her lane but worried that any vehicle coming behind her would not stop successfully.

Donnelly kept watch in her rear-view mirror and immediately saw the movement of a vehicle dodging its stopped lane and changing into hers. All she had time to do was push the brake pedal and brace herself.

Quality Assurance Specialist Susan Donnelly
Quality Assurance Specialist Susan Donnelly

“I heard the violence of the crash — sound of glass shattering and metal smashing, the vehicle bouncing up and hitting the vehicle in front of me, and everything in my SUV flying everywhere — and then silence,” she said.

Donnelly was taken by ambulance to the hospital, given x-rays and a CT scan, and was told she had suffered bruised ribs and airbag burns on one arm and her knees. The emergency room doctor explained that he had expected to see more damage.

Just thirty minutes before the crash, Donnelly randomly remembered a safety meeting at work from years ago that explained how close a driver should sit to the steering wheel.

“I remembered it was around twelve inches, so I estimated it, decided I needed more room, and scooted the seat back,” she said. “I checked that I could reach the gas and brake — all fine — and forgot about it, until after the wreck.”

The simple act of shifting herself back from the steering wheel might be what saved her life, or reduced the possibility of serious injury.

“A paramedic I talked to after the wreck said remembering that tip from a long-ago safety meeting was probably why I walked out of the ER,” Donnelly said.

“While on-site, employees are provided regular safety information with the goal to develop a safety culture where employees look out for hazards and complete work in a safe manner,” explained Julie Cramer, Y-12 Safety and Industrial Hygiene Senior Manager. “We also want employees to bring that information and mindset home. Employees will see many of the same safety risks off site and if we can keep people safe at work and influence them to be safer at home, that’s a win-win.”

“Take it from me, something small you hear in a safety meeting could prevent debilitating injury and save your life,” said Donnelly.

A random safety fact helped save an employee's life