Ian Johnson’s life forever changed in November 1991, and with his life, the lives of countless workers who would come after him.
On that day, Ian was working as usual in a confined space. However, the space was filled with gas. At some point during his work, the gas-enriched area ignited. Ian suffered burns to 80% of his body, yet he miraculously survived, becoming the only worker on record to live through this type of industrial accident.
The near-death experience was a wake-up call not only for Ian, but for Australia's entire framework of confined-space safety policies and procedures. Ian’s bone-chilling accident prompted the government to reform its Occupational Health and Safety Act in March 1992.
This historic change in Australia’s confined-space regulations was the first step in Ian’s lifelong mission to educate and inform businesses, corporations and administrators about the potential dangers of confined-space labor and the overall theme of workplace safety.
His keynote-speaker presentations focus on the events of that day and the days that followed – the personal responsibility of each worker to understand and be aware of his or her surroundings, the split-second nature of confined-space accidents, the difficulty of recovering from an industrial accident and the mental toughness it takes to return to the workplace after an industrial accident.
Ian’s informative presentations have spurred workers and managers across Australia to be more vigilant of and more knowledgeable about the risks related to confined-space labor. His inspiring personal narrative makes him a premier guest speaker for workplace safety conventions and symposiums.
I spent three days with Ian Johnson driving around the remote north west of WA, during that time you get to find out a bit more about a person than you would if you only see them presenting. As a HSE professional I have heard and seen a lot of presentations about people who have experienced a life changing event and on reflection I have felt somewhat detached from the emotion and pain they must have gone through. It’s only when you get to know a person that you get to feel some sense of the pain they have suffered both physically and mentally. For me that occurred with Ian, I expect he only tells half the story because the rest would just be too hard and most people probably wouldn’t get it. The half that Ian talks about reflects a change to his life that he had no say in, he didn’t make a mistake, he didn’t have a lapse in memory or not follow a procedure he was a victim of circumstances that he had no control over. Ian’s story starts out not much different than most of us who get up each day and head off to work , and then he clicks his fingers and asks everyone in the room to do the same, in that moment his story unfolds along with the impact it has had on him, his family, friends and work colleagues. The click of his fingers was the time it took for his accident to occur and change him and his family’s life forever, Ian received burns to over 80% of his body as a result and his wife and family got a different man as a husband and father. As I got to know Ian, I couldn’t help but feel how unfair life can really be, Ian’s a decent person who from that moment on had to endure suffering far beyond the physical scars; his and his former wife’s mental scars can’t be seen and in many cases I expect can’t be explained. His story is truly one of that puts what happens as a consequence of an accident into perspective, it can tear you, your family and relationships apart. To hear Ian’s story was worth every bit of the 1200km we travelled over three days presenting to 390 contractors. Thanks Ian for your courage and willingness to share a part of your life in the interest of safety.
HSE Manager DBP
As the Health Safety & Environmental manager for South Australian construction company Hansen Yuncken Pty Ltd, the largest family owned construction company in Australia, I have engaged Ian Johnson of Paradox ignited to conduct two separate safety presentations over the past two years. These presentations have been pitched at two entirely different workgroups and have been incredibly well received by both audiences with the feedback from many of the over 500 attendees clearly demonstrating the impact of Ian’s extraordinary story. The content of Ians’ presentation and the personalised manner in which he conveys his safety message has been of tremendous benefit to Hansen Yuncken and the hundreds of workers on our sites. I have no doubt what so ever that the workers who have sat through one of Ian’s presentations are much better for the experience and are far more appreciative of the impact of work place injuries. In addition to the two safety presentations conducted by Ian, he has also participated in a national safety induction DVD currently being produced by Hansen Yuncken, his participation in this initiative has added significantly to the status of the project.
HSE Manager SA
Thank you for coming along to present at South East Water’s leading practices safety forum. Your personal message was heartfelt and poignant. From someone within the water industry, it also brought things very close to home. We have received a great deal of feedback on the day, and your presentation has been continuously mentioned as captivating, relevant and moving. Your ability to capture the audience’s attention for your whole presentation is testament to your outstanding presentation skills and your powerful message. I commend your commitment to making a difference, so as to prevent someone else’s family from having such a traumatic experience. On behalf of South East Water and our many service providers who attended our safety forum, I would like to thank you for reminding us how quickly things change and how important our own safety is.
Group Manager, Technical Services
Whilst Ian’s story is particularly relevant to field staff working in the water industry, Ian’s story and the personal journey since his accident is something that cannot help but resonate with everyone who hears it. Ian presented four times over the course of the week, and each time, the raw honesty with which he spoke, the openness with which he shared his story, his experiences, his struggles and his journey did not diminish, and each time left a deep impression. We had a great turn out for the Safety Week presentations, and the feedback from all who attended was exceptional. His story is highly emotive and confronting, and something I hope no one else ever has so go through. Nonetheless, his openness is refreshing. I highly commend and thank Ian for sharing this journey with us. Most of us have an “it’ll never happen to me” attitude and this presentation is a reminder that it could happen to any one of us, at any time. For Seqwater, this was not a one off event. Ian will be invited back to share his stories and learning’s over and over again. The impact of this accident is not something easily forgotten, and Ian’s story is a stark reminder of the importance of keeping safety front of mind all day, every day. I can not recommend (and thank) Ian enough.
General Manager, Operations – Treated Water Seqwater
Ian delivers a most powerful and captivating account of an unforeseeable workplace accident. His unspeakable suffering and his amazing physical and mental recovery are truly inspiring. The fact that Ian was found in no way at fault, multiplies the listener’s empathy on hearing this tragic story. Ian delivers a crisp, emotionally-charged message in plain language that cuts to the core. All supervisors and workers should hear this life-changing narrative, as it will increase their level of safety consciousness forever.
We were so impressed and moved by Ian's presentation and the importance of OH&S he emphasizes that we made attendance of our 180+ staff compulsory and also worked with Ian to do a presentation for the community in Longreach. We have received only positive feedback from the presentations, many thanks for arranging with Ian to undertake them and we thank Ian for his time in doing so. Ian is a captivating speaker who speaks from the heart and his own personal experience as to how quickly 1 second can change your life and those around you forever. Ian's presentation is moving and eye opening and makes you think about safety and how you undertake your work in a whole new light. Ian was more than happy to take time out of his own schedule to work with us to undertake these presentations and I look forward to working with Ian again in the future. I would not hesitate to participate in Ian's presentations again and would certainly recommend him to anyone who values the safety and lives/lifestyles of themselves, colleagues, staff, family etc.
Engineering Technical Officer at Longreach Regional Council Qld
Ian's presentation provided a passionate and graphic account of the impacts and of the consequences of a serious workplace accident. Those attending thoroughly enjoy his unique and confronting style of presentation; you could hear a pin drop throughout the whole presentation. Council's CEO, after attending the presentation, emailed all staff urging them to attend one of his presentations if they had not already attended or registered, as he was quite moved by the presentation and felt that they would miss out on something special. Ian's presentation was the topic of discussion at both informal and formal meetings with lots of positive feedback provided from the field workers. Senior Management considers that the presentations were successful in reinforcing the importance of safety practices in the workplace and that the individual is the most important person responsible for their own safety, both in the workplace and at home.
Manager Civil Operations, Mackay Regional Council Qld
On behalf of the Seacare Authority, I would like to say a sincere thank you for your contribution as a speaker at the 2012 Seacare Conference in Sydney on 25October. By sharing your personal story it provided conference delegates with insight into the affects workplace injury has had on your life and family. Your story is truly remarkable and your passion to improve safety standards and to promote OHS as everyone’s responsibility is to be commended. Your message was felt strongly with the conference attendees with excellent feedback received after your session. Once again, thank you for supporting the 2012 Seacare conference as your presentation significantly contributed to the overall success of the conference.
Chairpersion Seacare Authority
Ian’s slideshow contained graphic photos of his injuries taken following the incident. He explained not only the physical pain that resulted from the burns and subsequent treatment, but how over years and decades of recovery, the social and mental impacts generated further obstacles for Ian to overcome. To Ian’s credit he is now able to speak confidently about his experiences and share the important safety warning with others.
KBR on behalf of AWA.
This year Ian Johnson from Paradox Ignited was invited as the Inaugural presenter for this new approach and presented the Opening Address – “Industrial Accident Survivor – Focus on the Safety of Individuals”. Ian’s presentation was very powerful and hit the audience hard. The presentation shared the pain and suffering a person goes through and how just one seemingly innocent act can change your life forever. Ian was totally engrossing, he challenged the audience, was appropriately confronting to drive home his message. Ian must be congratulated for his bravery and for putting a real face to the dangers that water industry personnel face on a daily basis.
NSW Conference Paper Session Manager and WIOA Vice President.
Presentation to Corporate Risk Branch
As you are aware, the branch has the responsibility for workplace health and safety governance across Council so your presentation was particularly relevant to us. Your story provided us with a better understanding of the full impact that such an injury has on not only the individual/s involved but also on family and friends.
I would especially like to thank you for sharing us so many details of your personal journey in such an open and forthright way. We could not help but be inspired by your courage, patience, guts and sheer persistence.
Thank you for sharing with us.
Manager Corporate Risk GCCC
Ian’s presentation to our staff was both an emotional and thought provoking look at what can happen if worker safety is not taken seriously. Questions for Ian after the presentation demonstrated that people had taken an active interest in the story that Ian had to tell. Thoroughly recommended presentation for any organisation looking to promote and raise awareness of the need to work safely.
EHS Officer – Merck Pty Ltd. VIC
Brierty Limited obtained the resources of Ian Johnson to deliver and present an awareness campaign highlighting the importance of;
. Safe systems of work
. Responsibilities and accountabilities
. Moral obligation to both family and work mates and
. The stresses of starting a new life after a life changing event.
Ian's presentation was both emotional and informative and provided a strong message for all to take home.
The feedback that Brierty received was very favourable and I personally would have no reservations in recommending this program.
Manager - Safety BRIERTY LIMITED.WA