“When I tried calling Lance the first time, it kept ringing. The second time it went to voicemail. I remember thinking something was terribly wrong.”
– Rebecca Orr, Lance Orr’s widow
Lance Orr was a construction worker.
He was a rigger. His job was to ensure the concrete load was safely and securely attached to the sling of a crane.
Lance was an out-going and boisterous Alberta cowboy. He thrived in the outdoors.
Lance loved to fish, hunt, camp, and gather with his family and friends. At 19, he met Rebecca and they became close friends. They fell in love and were married.
The soon-to-be father enjoyed working hard to provide for his family. For many months, he’d been working long, exhausting days.
On May 8th, 2009, their baby was due to arrive soon, so Rebecca was getting their baby registry set up. Lance was looking forward to a quiet night at home after a long week at work.
Lance never came home. Instead, Rebecca received a call from an RCMP officer while she was leaving the store where she was setting up the baby registry. Lance had died on the job.
This was not the future Rebecca and Lance had envisioned.
So what happened?
In the months leading up to Lance’s death, he had been working fourteen to sixteen hours a day. He had discussed with Rebecca how exhausted he was and how he hoped to finish his current job as soon as possible. The job had extended beyond its deadline and was a very demanding construction project.
“Lance had used two different lengths of chain and hadn’t tied the load down correctly,” explains Rebecca. “So when he gave the crane operator – his best friend – the okay to move the load, it slid off and crushed him instantly.”
“My world came crashing down,” says Rebecca. “Two months shy of our third wedding anniversary, all our plans and dreams were gone. I was left to pick up the pieces.”
At the age of twenty-five, Rebecca became a widow and a single mom. Lance and Rebecca’s daughter, Caitlin, was born three months after his death.
Fatigue can be fatal.
When workers are consistently working long days with insufficient rest in between, exhaustion takes a toll. Fatigue can affect a worker’s physical, emotional, and mental health. Fatigue can impact a worker’s decision-making abilities.CLICK TO TWEETIn the worst-case scenario, fatigue can be fatal.
We will never know exactly what happened the day Lance died, but fatigue likely played a significant role in the choices he made and the actions he took.
“Lance was one of the safest guys I knew. He would never intentionally put himself or anyone else at risk,” says Rebecca. “But that day he made choices that have left me with more questions than answers…and the only person who can answer those questions isn’t here.”
As an experienced rigger, Lance had been properly trained. He knew what he was doing and was very good at it. But when you’re dealing with a load of concrete, the margin for error is small. One minor mistake can make the difference between life and death.
Lance Orr was 27.
Caitlin has grown up to embrace her father’s love of the outdoors and horses. She is a cowgirl at heart.
To help raise awareness about workplace safety and provide support for others dealing with workplace tragedies, Rebecca now works with the Threads of Life Association for Workplace Tragedy Family Support as a speaker and family support volunteer.
For further info, please visit Threads of Life.
Since 2000, more than 20,000 Canadians have died as a result of their work – either from an occupational illness or injuries sustained on the job.
Is this the legacy we want to be building?
About the JPMF
The JPMF was started after the death of Calgary Police Constable John Petropoulos on Sept 29th, 2000. John was investigating a break and enter complaint when he stepped through a false ceiling, fell nine feet into the lunchroom below and died of a brain injury. There was no safety railing to warn him of the danger; the complaint turned out to be a false alarm.
John was 32.
The JPMF is a registered Canadian charity that raises public awareness about workplace safety issues and educates people about why & how to ensure their workplaces and the roads are safer for everyone, including emergency responders. For further information, please visit jpmf.ca.