It was just another routine evening shift in the kitchen at the restaurant where Matthew worked as a cook. As part of his closing duties, he had emptied the deep fryers and was carrying a 10-gallon saucepot of 375-degree oil for disposal.
One of the other cooks was spraying the kitchen floor, another nightly duty. As Matthew was carrying the pot of hot oil, he had a gut feeling something wasn’t right. But, he carried on, ignoring his instincts.
At that moment, his feet slipped sideways on the wet ceramic tile and down he went, spilling hot oil on his body and face. Everything happened so quickly, Matthew didn’t have time to turn away. The oil came within a quarter of an inch of his eyes, nose, and mouth. Had he swallowed the oil, his organs would have been burned, and he would not have survived.
The kitchen staff immediately took him outside and started spraying his body with a hose, as they tried to wash the oil off him and bring his body temperature down. Fortunately, there was an ambulance in the nearby parking lot and Matthew was immediately rushed to the hospital. Both factors probably helped save his life.
“The pain was so bad that I didn’t even want to live. I said, ‘You know what, God, don’t even save me — just let me go,’” says Matthew.
Because of the trauma to his body, the medical staff didn’t think Matthew would survive the night. Shortly after being admitted, he flatlined for two minutes. The doctors sedated him and put him on life support.
Matthew spent the next three weeks in the Burn Unit at Vancouver General Hospital receiving treatment for the severe burns that covered more than 40 percent of his body. He also received a skin graft from his thigh onto his shoulder and chest. This was a painful process for Matthew, his family and the friends who supported him during his recovery.
Matthew’s experiences have given him new perspective on health and safety. “If the work environment is unsafe for young workers, injuries are inevitable,” he says. “We need to emphasize safety and training for everyone, and especially for new or young workers.”
Matthew wants young workers to understand that if they don’t feel safe, they need to say ‘No.’ They have a right to work in a safe workplace, and the right to be properly trained. If that training isn’t made available, he says they have the right to ask for it.
Matthew doesn’t want young workers to have to learn the painful way, as he did.