Each year a $3000 scholarship is available to persons currently enrolled full time in an occupational and or public health and safety related program at a Southwest or Central-West Ontario college or university. This may include occupational safety/health/hygiene, occupational/physical therapy, nursing, medicine, emergency services or other related fields.
The scholarship is in memory of Tim Hickman, a part-time City of London arena employee who lost his life on the job in 1996. The scholarship is sponsored by the City of London along with CUPE Locals 107 and 101, with the support of Tim’s family and friends. The scholarship represents the importance of raising awareness of occupational health and safety.
A Profile of Tim
Tim was an energetic boy. Tim and his brother Michael always had skates on their feet and a stick in their hands. For hours they played hockey in the house, backyard and on the streets of the neighbourhood. At a young age, Tim knew he wanted to play goal, a dream he realized while attending Laurier Secondary School. He was a team player and he was noted for his sportsmanship. When Tim won any award for any of his talents, he was very aware that he was but one member of the team. Friends and family were important to him and it would be infrequent that he was ever alone.
Tim shared his family with many foster children, including several with medical or physical disabilities. As part of this extended family, Tim developed a special gift for assisting people with special needs to do their best and reach their potential.
Tim's passion for playing hockey led him to his part-time job with the City of London at Silverwoods Arena. This part-time job gave Tim the chance to combine his love of sports with his interest in working with people, while allowing him to pay for his college tuition, car loan on his new jeep and his interests with sports and his friends.
On March 23, 1996, Tim was working alone as the ice-resurfacing machine operator. Tim was filling the wash water tank of the gas powered ice resurfacing machine with hot water. He left the room and returned to find the room filled with steam and vapours. Gasoline in the tank on the ice resurfacing machine located next to the wash water tank overheated and vapours made a path to the nearby natural gas hot water heaters, where they ignited. Tim was caught in an explosion. He was engulfed in flames. The explosion caused the doors of the room to blow onto the ice along with flames and smoke. He ran to alert players and to clear the arena.
The coaches and players on the ice discovered the challenges associated with evacuating the ice in an emergency. Because of the darkness and the smoke, exits from the ice were difficult to distinguish from the rest of the panels surrounding the ice.
A coroner's inquest was held following this incident with 25 recommendations to improve the safety of arenas and equipment for employees and the public.
Like any tragedy there are many links in the chain that must come together to prevent it. Remove one of these links and this tragedy could have been avoided. Links like safety training, properly installed equipment and review of equipment design which had a bearing on this tragedy.
As part of Tim's legacy his family is working tirelessly to promote occupational health and safety to workers, employers and the public. They share Tim's story with students and health and safety consultants to support that education. His friends gather for a golf tournament each year to remember the good times they shared with a good friend. The community hosts a hockey tournament to remember Tim and the lessons learned and to support awareness for arena safety.
During one interview for an awareness campaign, his brother Michael was asked what he would miss most. He replied "What I miss most is what I won't have. Those 50 years that I was suppose to spend with Tim, doing simple things like sitting on a deck and relaxing with him or going to some graduation down the road. I'll miss things like that because someone just couldn't take the time."
Tim's family and his friends are very supportive that the Corporation of the City of London, and CUPE Locals 107 and 101 are sponsoring this significant scholarship. The Tim Hickman Memorial Scholarship represents the importance of raising awareness of occupational health and safety. Your commitment to workplace health and safety demonstrates how one person can make a difference. By raising awareness and developing and supporting health and safety policies, your career path will lead to a solution to the serious issue of workplace tragedies. That solution is prevention.
Submitted by Tim's mother, Shirley Hickman