Former Olympian, Accident Survivor Advocates for Pipeline Construction Safety

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Former Olympian, Accident Survivor Advocates for Pipeline Construction Safety | The Moran Group

Press Release from Water Online

According to the 2014 DIRT (Damage Information Reporting Tool) Report, 59.6 percent of damages to liquids pipelines were caused because no locate request was made. That could be considered an alarming statistic considering the potential dangers that are usually associated with pipelines that carry essential products like gas and oil. Public awareness starts with a damage prevention and safety program to educate people about the dangers of unsafe excavation practices. These large networks of underground pipelines are buried next to other critical infrastructure like water and sewer lines, communication fiber, and electrical lines.

Cliff Meidl, spokesperson for the CGA 811 Excavation Safety Conference & Expo and ambassador for workplace Health and Safety, knows all too well why every utility needs to be included in the damage prevention process.

Cliff didn’t embrace this calling until after his comeback from a tragic near-death construction accident when he was 20 years old. As a plumber’s apprentice on a construction site in 1986, he was operating a jackhammer and made contact with three live buried electric cables sending nearly 30,000 volts of electricity through his body. The severe electrical shock stopped Cliff’s heart as he experienced cardiac arrest. Fortunately, fast acting first responders saved Cliff’s life by administering CPR. Cliff also suffered severe electrical burns and exit wounds over fifteen percent of his body, but most of the damage was to both of his knees.

Cliff’s battle had just begun. Due to the severe damage to both of his legs, his physicians were recommending amputation. However, Cliff’s parents found a local surgeon with a reputation for innovative procedures. Cliff was transferred to the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles where Dr. Malcolm Lesavoy performed an innovative muscle grafting procedure in order to save his legs.

His surgery was a success. After approximately three years and several medical procedures Cliff was able to launch an aggressive rehabilitation campaign and ultimately walk unassisted; even his physicians were surprised by this accomplishment. Both Dr. Lesavoy and Dr. Bert Mandelbuam were very instrumental, not only as clinicians, but also as motivators that inspired Cliff to be his best.

Ten years after his life-changing accident, Cliff’s commitment and dedication to reinvent himself helped him to realize his ultimate dream. In 1996 he marched in the Opening Ceremonies of the Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta as a member of the USA Olympic Kayaking Team. Four years later, at the Olympic Games in Sydney, Cliff competed in his second Olympics and received one of the highest honors as an Olympian — he was selected by his teammates to carry the Unites States’ flag during the Opening Ceremony as Team USA Flag Bearer.

All About Safety
Today, Cliff uses that same commitment and determination he used to comeback from his injuries, learn to walk again, and participate in the Olympics to actively promote safety awareness and utility damage prevention. According to the 2014 DIRT Report, 44.8 percent of damages occurred on natural gas utilities. Cliff, an inspiring speaker, will be a keynote presenter at the CGA 811 Excavation Safety Conference & Expo to help promote safety awareness and protect buried infrastructure like gas and oil pipelines.

His inspiring story will help attendees learn what can happen when safety is not an integral part of an organization's culture, especially since statistics continually prove that there is less than a 1 percent chance of a damage event when 811 is called prior to excavation. Cliff's passion for safety and damage prevention comes from his unique experiences and his understanding of the importance of worksite safety and family. In addition to his affiliation with the CGA 811 Excavation Safety Conference & Expo, Cliff is a staunch spokesperson of the Call 811 initiative with the One Calls of America, Inc. 

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