Threads of Life: Telling the stories behind the health and safety stats


Telling the stories behind the health and safety stats

By Susan Haldane

Special to the GTA Construction Report

When Deb Henhoeffer of Waterloo-based Melloul-Blamey Construction was planning the company’s annual health and safety meeting last spring, she knew she wanted something memorable – a way to refresh health and safety for a group of experienced employees who have had all the training and sat through countless safety meetings.

Melloul-Blamey is a general contracting firm tackling institutional, recreational, industrial and multi-unit residential projects of all sizes. The company emphasizes safety in its employees’ work and home lives. Henhoeffer, the health and safety coordinator, brought a speaker from Threads of Life to talk to roughly100 workers.

At that safety meeting in June, the speaker told the story of her brother, who died after a catastrophic injury while working on a construction site. She talked about how much she missed her brother, and how his death affected her and her family. And she urged the employees to work safely to protect their own families from having to live through this devastating experience.

At the end, Henhoeffer said, some workers had tears in their eyes, and the speaker received a standing ovation. Melloul-Blamey believes her presentation had a lasting impact on their workforce, by providing them with fresh motivation to work safely.

“When I first found out the speaker was so young I wondered – How can she have any life experience to talk to 100 construction workers?” Henhoeffer said. “Will my guys respect her and listen? Well, she is an inspiring young lady. I felt her pain and the pain of her family. She kept everyone engaged with every word she said.  I have never seen so many men (and a few women) so quiet. You could hear a pin drop. She impacted their lives more than they were expecting.”

Threads of Life supports family members who have experienced a workplace tragedy – a fatality, a life-altering injury or an occupational disease. Some of these family members go on to become members of the Threads of Life speakers bureau, as a way to promote health and safety by telling their own story. These volunteer speakers – more than 60 across Canada – tell the real stories behind the health and safety stats. They bring home the devastating impact a workplace tragedy has on families, co-workers, and the community.

            Threads of Life speakers have made presentations to conference audiences of 400 people, and to safety meetings of a dozen. For more information about the speakers bureau or to book a speaker for your own health and safety event, visit or call (888) 567-9490. Susan Haldane is the Threads of Life program manager, marketing and communications.


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