OR-OSHA Magazine Profiles a Memorable Educator

Matt Pomerinke, safety manager for Longview Fibre Paper and Packaging Inc., shared the lessons from the traumatic amputation of part of his left arm in about 100 presentations last year.

The June/July 2012 issue of Oregon OSHA's Resource online magazine profiles what it calls a "leading Oregon health and safety professional," Matt Pomerinke, who tells how he came to be a popular speaker at safety events and in industrial plants. Pomerinke, identified in the article as safety manager for Longview Fibre Paper and Packaging Inc., gave about 100 presentations last year to about 5,000 people, telling them how the lower part of his left arm was amputated in an unguarded machine when he worked at a sawmill at age 21.

He was performing night cleanup duties and was pulling a stick out of an unguarded chain drive when it broke, throwing him off balance; his shirt sleeve was caught where the chain and sprocket met, and the sprocket tore through his arm, Pomerinke explains.

He says a friend helped him overcome his initial reluctance to give public safety talks, and he worked with personnel at Washington state's Labor & Industries department to expand his speech to 45 minutes. He eventually began giving the talk in high schools, colleges, businesses, conferences, and at an Oregon paper mill and box plants in Washington, Idaho, Utah, and California, according to the profile, which is on pages 16-19 of the issue.

Pomerinke says the points he strives to impact are to remember what you are working for so you can return home safely every night, to get all of the training you can, and that an accident lasts forever and affects everyone around you. "Kids are great and they really have no fear of asking you the hard questions that really matter," he says in the article. "I think the best question I'm asked is if I am happy with my life even with all that I had to go through. Luckily, this is a pretty easy question for me to answer: Yes."

He says something else worth remembering in the article: "Training isn't the most glamorous part of any job and, to be honest, it can be downright boring at times, but it is a crucial part to any job. It is easier to spend an hour at a training session than it is to wear a prosthetic the rest of your life. Trust me."

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