Matthew Bowcott

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On The Pathway of Significance – I never thought that working in a kitchen could have resulted in almost losing my life.

For most of my life I was pretty carefree and didn’t really have any major stresses to complain about. I was lucky to have a great family and a close group of friends who I spent my time with. Most of my jobs when I was young were in the restaurant industry since I had a passion for cooking and learning about food. I worked at restaurants like Red Robin and A & W, which are places that many young people looking for first time jobs would start out. I would have never thought at 18 that I would experience the event that would impact my life forever.

The date of the accident was June 28, 2002 at approximately 10:00pm. On the night of the accident I was on the closing shift at Sammy J Peppers and part of my job was to empty the fryers and dispose of the used oil. I was carrying outside a 10-gallon saucepot full of 375-degree oil that had been emptied out of the fryers. The saucepot had two handles and no lid, and I was not wearing any protective gloves or apron. Since it was warm in the kitchen, the door was propped open and one of the other cooks was spraying the floor, which was also another one of the nightly duties. While I was carrying the oil outside to dispose of it I had a gut feeling that something was not right and decided to just ignore it.

At that moment my feet slipped sideways on the wet ceramic tile floor and I fell, pouring and spilling the hot oil onto my body and face. It happened so fast; I didn’t have time to turn my face away and was lucky to save my eyes. More like a fluke not luck. The oil came a quarter of an inch away from my eyes, nose and mouth. If I would have swallowed it, I would have been burned from the inside out, burning my organs, and I would have surely not have survived.

The kitchen manager and other members of the kitchen staff immediately threw me outside and started spraying me off with the hose, in an attempt to wash off the oil and cool me to bring my body temperature down (which ironically was the same hose they used to spray the floor which caused the accident in the first place). While others and myself attempted to tear off my chef’s jacket, all I can remember was the blistered and swollen skin was sliding around my fingertips. Several members of the medical community have told me that the staff’s quick thinking and immediate action likely saved my life, and most definitely minimized the severity of my burns. Another aspect that helped save my life that night was the location of the ambulance which was located in the Superstore parking lot right next to the Sammy J Peppers restaurant where the accident occurred.

Once the ambulance arrived I was rushed to Langley Memorial to be stabilized. Due to the amount of trauma my body endured during the accident the medical staff didn’t think I would survive the night. Shortly after I was admitted I flat lined for 2 minutes and the doctors sedated me and I was put on life support. The medical staff struggled trying to get the intubation tube (breathing apparatus) into my swollen esophagus in order to help me breathe and stabilize my condition. From there I was taken to VGH to the Burn Unit and had my 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree burns treated which covered over 40% of my body including my neck, arms, chest and face. I spent the next 3 weeks having my dressings changed, and my skin debrided, and I eventually received a skin graph from my thigh onto my shoulder and chest in order to help heal my burnt skin. This by far was the most painful experience for not only me but for my family and friends that were there in support of my recovery.

This experience has forever changed my life and taught me to appreciate every single morning I am able to wake-up without pain and suffering. I try to never take anything for granted since I know how quickly things change and how precious life truly is. In addition to being a SHARE Representative for The Future Is Mine, I have been given an amazing opportunity to work for WorkSafe BC and go into the public to educate people on the importance of safety in the workplace, and how to properly and confidently refuse work if you feel that it is unsafe or may end in injury to yourself or others. This position will help me not only communicate my workplace accident and the injury that occurred due to poor business practices, but also stress the importance of being aware of your rights as an employee. By the presentation of my story I hope to prevent many unnecessary work related accidents and to inspire people to make sure that the environments they work in have proper policies and procedures to increase workplace safety.

Helping others and being a mentor is my work now and feel that this is a pathway of significance!


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