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June 24, 2019

Construction Safety – Have We Gone Too Far?

Construction Safety - Scaffolding

In construction, safety should be paramount. A while back when I was on holiday on holiday in Croatia, I saw construction guys climbing outside of the scaffolding to carry out their tasks without any Fall Arrest Devices (FAD)! One slip and a guy wasn’t going home for dinner! But no-one slipped.

Construction Safety
Construction Workers With No FAD

I did similar things a long time ago when inspecting conveyor trusses for corrosion and damage. I was careful, and I didn’t fall. But when the compulsory need to wear a harness and FAD came into effect, I perilously climbed unnecessarily to attach, and remove, and reattach my harness – to comply with a safety requirement, but – I stress – not to increase my safety. 

Now I’m going to be controversial!

FADs do not reduce the risk of falling, they merely stop you from smashing into the ground or worse.

I reckon they made structural inspections more dangerous. They also made significant parts of structures “inaccessible”. As if corrosion cares if you can see it or not! And unseen and unattended corrosion alone can wreak more havoc during a structure collapse than a single fall can.

In the DMIR article, “Scaffolder Falls 4 Metres And Retractable Lanyard Webbing Shears” a guy put his faith into a faulty FAD (not his fault) and also attached his restraint to a handrail (his fault).

Construction Safety - Scaffolder
Fall location and height

Look, safety is paramount in everything we do. No one wants to challenge the safety procedures we have in place today publicly which is why this newsletter is controversial. Well today, I am!

☞ I’ve ridden my bike on busy roads without a physical separation between me and a 2 tonne (or more) vehicle travelling at 130kmh 😱

☞ I’ve driven a car on perilous mountain passes without guardrails and sufficient road width to share with oncoming vehicles 😱

☞ I’ve climbed onto a swivel chair to replace a light globe 😱
We’ve all done these, or similar, or higher-risk things.

When a vehicle came too close to me and my bike I didn’t think to make the road provider accountable for “not providing a safe riding place”. Same thing when a vehicle came around the mountain pass in front of me and I nearly drove off the cliff. And when the swivel chair wasn’t a good choice for getting access to a blown globe I simply recognised the stupid choice and made a better one.

I didn’t submit a permit request to have sole use of the road
(but on cycling descents how awesome would that be?!)

Narrow road
Narrow roads

I didn’t use a ladder issued from the shed after being certified “still safe” and climb it with a permit to do so.

I did, and always do, a mental “Take 5”. Again, we all do this. Not as children, but as adults with a fully formed prefrontal cortex, we do.

But perhaps when there’s a safety officer, when there’s a permit, when there’s a formal pre-start meeting, we switch that part of our brain off. We don’t need it after all – the workplace is safe, and the boss is incumbent to ensure it is!

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