Updated: Jul 17, 2021
Greg Toombs enjoyed his life and his work - but his injury would transform everything
May 24th, 2021
Hundreds of BC workers are killed on the job each year, and hundreds more are left permanently disabled. Many find themselves caught in a struggle that leaves them physically, emotionally, and financially exhausted -- wondering if the system that is supposed to help them is instead is working against them.
The story of Greg Toombs is the first to be told in our Injured Worker Chronicles series. If you're an injured worker and want to share your experience, send an email to Spencer van Vloten at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Day Everything Changed
My name is Greg Toombs, and this is my story.
I used to be a worker -- a countertop installer and plumber for Integrity Countertops. I took great pride in my craft, ensuring that nothing ever got damaged or went missing on a job I did. I loved my work and my life, and was excited for the future.
But on February 23, 2010, that changed forever.
On that day I was required to install a kitchen and a bathroom countertop weighing nearly 200 pounds in a 4th floor suite within a high-rise.
I carried the 200 pound countertop on my own through a maze of 4 x 30' long glass hallways, each with a locked door at the end requiring the countertop to be rotated from end to end to get through each of the doorways.
I got to the freight elevator but couldn't get the countertop in. So I returned back to my van carrying it back myself returning through the maze in reverse. They had hired another plumber and he was arriving at 1pm.
The customer was in a panic for me to get this countertop into the suite. So foolishly I made this effort a SECOND TIME to carry the countertop through the long maze again. I tried with all my might, giving everything I had to get it into the freight elevator without damaging the large countertop. Once again failing and having to get this piece back to the truck.
Help arrived late and he helped me carry the countertop up 4 flights of stairs into its destination. I carried it all the way back up again and found a way to fit it into the suite. From there, I had to lift a 120-pound sink several times to get it in place in the countertop.
During the installation of the smaller bathroom vanity I got stuck and heard something in my neck tearing as I tried to free myself. Once I was out I knew then and there that something was not right. Something was definitely wrong.
Once I was out I knew then and there that something was not right. Something was definitely wrong.
The effort left me in tremendous pain throughout my body and I could hardly stand. Every muscle ached. Despite this, my boss forced me to complete another job straight after, where I was in so much agony that I had to sit on the ground every chance I could as I attempted, and completed the installation or I would not get paid for it
At this point I was a non-union worker. I did not have the protection of a collective agreement or a union rep who would have taken my side.
For non-union workers, if you decline work because you feel it to be unsafe, you find yourself unemployed. I couldn’t afford to lose this job.
For non-union workers, if you decline work because you feel it to be unsafe, you find yourself unemployed
After working on the 2nd job, I headed right to a doctor, went home, and spent the next week in bed. I'd hurt my back and neck so badly it was even affecting my ability to use the washroom.