Electrocuted On The Job At 17: Curtis Weber's Comeback Story
Insight Hockey-lover Curtis Weber shares how he lost an arm and leg while on the job at age 17.
In July of 1999, 17-year-old Curtis Weber was on the third day of his new job installing grain bins. A fresh high school graduate in Saskatchewan, with an invitation to play Junior A hockey in the fall, Curtis woke up one morning sure of a bright future.
“It was the Friday before a long weekend and the boss had told us to expect a pretty easy day,” says Weber. “Then the first job went kind of sideways on us. We were in a huge rush to pick up the pace. Our thoughts of getting home early on a long weekend were quickly turning into expectations of being there until dark and maybe even having to come in on Saturday to finish the job.”
That frustration, according to Curtis, led to a mistake that would shape the rest of his life. Rather than taking the time to drag a bin safely along the ground into position, a decision was made to move it with a crane, despite the presence of an overhead power line. As high winds began to batter the bin, Curtis was the first to rush in and steady it. When contact was made with the live power lines, 14,400 volts of electricity surged through him three separate times. The incident left him with third and fourth-degree burns over 60 percent of his body and what the doctors would declare to be zero chance of survival.
“I knew that what we were doing was unsafe, but I was still the first person to grab on to the structure and steady it against the wind, rather than use my voice,” says Curtis. “Being 17 and on the third day of a new job, I didn’t want to cause any problems or delays. So when everyone was rushing and frustrated, I just put my head down and did what I thought needed to be done.”
Defying the odds, Curtis made a miraculous recovery, though it was lengthy, painful, and cost him his right arm and left leg. Today, he is married with two beautiful children, leads an active sporting life, and has a rewarding career working toward building a workplace culture where workers are empowered and encouraged to speak up, preventing accidents like his own.
Relentlessly upbeat, Curtis counts himself lucky. But he is quick to point out that a history of good luck can be one of the causes of workplace tragedies. “When we’ve taken a particular risk a hundred or a thousand times and nothing bad has happened, why would we do things any differently?” he asks. “This is where I try to draw on my experience to inspire a change in how people think. I was that person who continually took risks and never encountered a negative consequence… until I did.”
“As successful as my recovery has been, I certainly wouldn’t wish what I had to go through — and particularly what my family and friends had to go through — on anyone.”