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Motivational Keynote: You have influence on everyone in your circle, Rollins says

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Itasca, IL — For longtime steel industry supervisor and motivational speaker Ricky Rollins, safety means more than protecting only yourself.

As he opened his remarks March 4 during the Motivational Keynote of the virtual National Safety Council Safety Congress & Expo, Rollins asked attendees to raise their hands if they had children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, friends, and other people close to them. These individuals comprise our circles, Rollins said, and a true comprehension of safety should include an understanding of the influence we hold on their well-being.

“When you’ve got those choices and decisions that you’re going to make,” Rollins said, “I want you to think about those people that you raised your hands for and how those decisions might affect them.”

An ensuing series of stories involving friends, colleagues and Rollins himself illustrated the importance of internalizing this responsibility.

During the presentation, Rollins said it only takes one incident or unfortunate twist of fate to turn a seemingly ordinary day into one that could alter our circle – and even those of our co-workers – indefinitely.

“Why does it take a monumental event in our lives to get us to do the things we already know we should be doing?” Rollins asked.

He recounted one such day – Dec. 30, 1995 – during which he nearly suffered a fatal on-the-job injury in a furnace combustion chamber. A loose piece of debris struck Rollins’ head and caused a complete skull fracture – a result, he said, of his own lack of hazard identification.

Part of Rollins’ recovery included deep reflection. He said the process helped him understand more fully the potential impact the incident, had he died, would have had on his wife and three children. He said he also realized the luckiest thing that happened that day was not his surviving a near miss, but the uncompromised health of a co-worker in the lift basket adjacent to his. The worker escaped unharmed.

Rollins, who grew emotional at times during the presentation, said he doubted he could have coped with the consequences of his oversight had the incident resulted in someone else being injured. Going forward, he adjusted his commitment to safety and the regard for his circle, helping pave the way to his current career.

“All I wanted to do is get in there, ‘git ’er done’ and go on to the next one,” Rollins said. “‘Git ’er done’ is something a comedian says to make us laugh. It can’t be the way we live.”

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