sweden Two serious accidents could well have ended tragically without the quick-witted intervention of Rickard Strand and Mats Westberg

Thanks to the presence of mind and resolute action of the prize-winners, two of our colleagues are alive today who would otherwise in all probability have died. For their efforts, Rickard Strand and Mats Westberg received the Golden Helmet prize, which has been awarded at Vattenfall since 1958.

“I am naturally honoured, but it still feels a bit strange: after all, why should I get a prize for something that goes without saying?” says Rickard Strand, project manager at Vattenfall Hydro Power in Luleå, who saved the life of a colleague lying trapped and unconscious in her wrecked car after colliding with a bus.

His statement is more understandable when Rickard Strand mentions that he has been a member of the Alpine Mountain Rescue service for more than three decades, and has witnessed many dramatic accidents with both happy and less fortunate outcomes over the years.

About to suffocate
In this case, it was undeniably a stroke of luck that an experienced rescuer happened to reach the scene first on that morning in November. Rickard Strand realised that someone was trapped in the wreckage, managed to grip an edge of the smashed windscreen, wrenched it off and crawled in among the airbags which had inflated. Inside, an unconscious woman was trapped in an awkward position. 

“I made sure she was able to breathe and moved her to a better position, but it took a while before I realised that she was a colleague from the office in Luleå,” says Rickard.

In the meantime, people on the bus involved in the accident had rung the emergency number 112, and after a short time the rescue service and a helicopter ambulance were on the scene. The injured woman was cut loose and flown to the hospital for care and rehabilitation. She now feels better but has not yet fully recovered.

Disappeared through the ice
Unlike Rickard, the second recipient of the Golden Helmet, Mats Westberg, a technical employee at Vattenfall Nordic Services in Örnsköldsvik, had no previous experience of serious accidents.  During his 39 years at Vattenfall, he had never witnessed anything of the kind when a colleague disappeared through the ice with his snowmobile.   

“Strangely enough, I felt no fear at all, but acted calmly when I realised the danger”.

Mats Westberg was clearing snow off the power lines in the woods outside Blattnicksele in Lapland when the accident occurred.

“I had gone past a four metre wide ice-covered stream with my snowmobile, stopped and started work. It had turned dark by then, and after a few minutes I noticed a flickering light about a hundred metres behind me where my colleague should have been working. It then dawned on me that something was wrong, and I went back on my snowmobile.”

“My colleague had broken through the ice with his scooter and was struggling to climb out of the icy water, dragged down by the heavy tools on his belt.” His headlamp was giving off the flickering light that had attracted Mats Westberg’s attention.

A desperate situation
“He was in desperate straits, but I got hold of him and was able to pull him out. It was minus fifteen degrees outside and as soon as he was up I made sure that he ran back and forth on the scooter track to keep warm while I fetched a colleague with a car a few kilometres away”.

There was a change of dry clothes in the car and everything ended without any complications. My colleague was back at work the next day and the scooter could be salvaged.

“If it had not been for the light from his head lamp, I would not have gone back so quickly, and things could then have gone badly wrong,” says Mats.

Rickard Strand
Mats Westberg

Eleven nominees
Rickard and Mats received their Golden Helmets in the Arenastaden office where the ceremony was the high point of an entire day dedicated to work environment issues: managers, H&S inspectors, union representatives, HR personnel and various work environment experts all took part.

Dag Svensson, Chairman of Vattenfall’s Work Environment Committee, distributed the golden pins:

“The prize is awarded to employees of the Vattenfall Group who have ‘acted resourcefully and carried out an exemplary action in the case of an accident involving a person’ on the basis of the same principles as when it was founded 60 years ago,” he said.

To date, 144 persons have received the award from its inception. This year, there were eleven nominations.

“All nominees had carried out significant, exemplary actions worthy of appreciation, but the jury finally decided to select two of them,” said Dag Svensson.

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