A gripping story about cutting corners

CALGARY — Duane Janiskevich wants a “do over,” and he wants other farmers in Canada to be so safe that they never need one.

Janiskevich cut off three fingers and his thumb in 2008. The evidence is there, on his right hand, and the memory is vivid. He knew at the time that a jigsaw was the right tool, but he used a table saw instead.

“I knew it was a dangerous activity the way I was doing it, but I didn’t have time, really, to use the right tool, in my mind,” he said.

He made the cut but as he pulled back from the blade, the saw hurled the piece of wood directly at him.

“Before I even looked down at my hand, I just thought, ‘I want a do over, because that was way too easy.’ It was such a simple decision, something I knew I shouldn’t have done.

“And then I looked down and I just screamed as loud as I could. My middle finger was lying in my hand. My thumb was lying in my hand, and the other two fingers, I didn’t know where they were at the time.”

Janiskevich talked about his situation before speaking to Alberta Milk members during the organization’s Nov. 23 annual meeting.

He formed Gripping Insights Consulting following finger reattachment and lengthy rehabilitation. The business name shows his appreciation for irony as well as the importance with which he treats the farm safety message.

“I do have some gripping issues now and again.”

Janiskevich grew up in Lemburg, Sask., a farming community where his grandparents farmed and where he was also a frequent farm visitor and worker.

That’s why he knows a bit about the farmer psyche.

“We look for ways that we can do something quickly, and sometimes it puts our safety at risk,” he said.

“It’s understanding where we’re doing that and to sort of analyze that action and stop doing it. For me, I didn’t stop soon enough.”

Janiskevich said he is aware of recent controversy over Alberta’s Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act, formerly known as Bill 6.

However, he said attitudes rather than legislation are the keys to farm safety.

“For me it’s not about legislation or organizations that are looking over (your shoulder) to see what you’re doing,” he said.

“It’s really about safety being that personal value, something where you really don’t care if somebody is watching or not, but you’re saying, ‘I want to be safe for my family. I want to be safe because I love doing what I do and I want to keep doing it’.”

His presentation to Alberta Milk was called Stop Cutting Corners. Janiskevich said that’s because doing things in an unsafe way leads to more of the same but increases risk.

Injuries affect other family members, often in unforeseen ways, and there are mental as well as physical tolls on the person who suffers it.

“It carried a heavy weight,” said Janiskevich about his injury.

“A lot of it, I think to start with, was guilt. I knew what I did caused my injuries. You go through self-doubt.… I thought every time I shook somebody’s hand, they were going to judge me. It would be in their face.”

He regained 80 percent functionality in his right hand after intense therapy and thoughts of further amputation and was off work for six months. Motivational speaking is the latest foray in his working career, which includes teaching, civil technology and management consulting and farm labourer.

As well, Janiskevich has got his wish, in a way.

“I think every time I talk to a crowd, I get a do over. I get a chance to do this thing right, through them,” he said.

“It’s more about making it real for people, not pointing fingers. I tell people that I don’t point fingers because you have no clue where I’m pointing anyways.

“I’ve taken my story. I’ve added humour in different spots. But it’s something that’s relatable. I think people just step back and say, ‘whoa, why am I cutting corners? What am I gaining? Is it just the time? Is it just a little bit of money? Is it just a little bit of effort? And is it worth it?’ ”

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