Did we get Safety Right?

  • Posted by Simon Byrne
  • On August 15, 2016

When I started in this industry (gulp) 30 years ago, little importance was placed on workplace safety. Instead, it was expected that common-sense was all that was needed.

Nowadays we have the opposite. There is no expectation that there will be any common-sense on a workers part, instead relying on procedures detailed in safe work method statements. This has led to reduced accidents but I sometimes think we have gone too far.

In this litigious world, I wonder if we are losing the ownership for our own safely, due to people who don’t seem to be bothered with their own safety.

I’m on the Executive Committee for a building where the lifts are being replaced. Due to the lack of lifts while the work is being done, the fire stairs have been made available. Incredibly, I was advised that we would have to put signs on all 14 fire exit doors telling our tenants how to use the stairs safely!

It was decided that the building Owners Corporation could be sued if someone tripped using the stairs, and if we had not adequately provided instructions on how to use them safely. My Mum tells me that I learn’t to use stairs before I was one year of age. No further instruction required and if I don’t know how to use them now, I am quite rightly an idiot. I figure if a person cannot use the stairs safely, they are unlikely to read a sign.

Another example of the world gone mad is at my wife’s florist shop. Her shop faces onto a colonnade and the door is safety glass, sign written and opens out onto the colonnade. She leaves it open along with some of her displays on the colonnade.

About once a week someone walks into the door. Why? Because they aren’t looking where they are going as they are looking down at their phone as they walk. Incredibly, some of these people take the time to come into the shop and complain that “that we should do something about that door”. Sorry stupid person, we are not responsible if you are not prepared to look where you are going.

The hallmark of the live production industry is it’s ability to stage events quickly. By any standard, we are incredibly agile and fast. No other industry has the capacity to unload and set up 30 semi- trailers worth of equipment in 10 hours, run a show, pack it down, and the do it again in another city tomorrow.

This agility and speed creates fertile ground for accidents so procedures need to be in place to ensure they don’t happen. That means well trained and experienced crew, or Safe Work Method Statements, or a combination of both.

Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) are documented safe procedures for tasks that carry high risk. For example, hanging speakers and lights carries risk of falling on a person below. The obvious solution is to task experienced people with the skills to do it safely to carry out the job. Unfortunately, in this modern litigious era, that is not good enough and we are required to assume that the said experienced staff are in fact…Muppets. Consequently, SWMS’s are produced for things such as…using stairs.

This leads to a circumstance where SWMS are little more than complex documents designed to placate venues and insurers. Unfortunately, the people who don’t take responsibility for their own safety still get injured despite the extra cost and paperwork.

We don’t wish to make light of safety, the opposite in fact. Workers and employers need to jointly take all the steps to ensure they don’t get injured at work by making sure carry out their tasks safely.

I just wish we had a better system than SWMS because I am not sure they work. Stay safe people.

0 comments on Did we get Safety Right?