Changing weather conditions can present unexpected hazards

In the south-east corner of Australia, a drought has existed for over a decade.  This week in Melbourne, it has rained on and off for several days, changing the way the community is feeling.  Farmers are happy, owners of rain water tanks are happy, gardeners are happy, even commuters who have to relearn how to drive in the wet are less complaining.

Some months ago, I spoke to a mother whose two-year-old daughter had never seen a heavy rainstorm, thunder or lightning.  Early last year, a colleague and I looked out of an office building window on a 13th floor and saw smoke swirling round the city.  It turned out to be rain but we had not seen rain for so long that we mis-identified it.

This morning, I was removing money from an automatic teller in the street and I was dripped on from the leaking roof of the bank for the first time ever.  A local chemist had buckets on its floor to catch drips from the ceiling that they had never seen before.

Yesterday, 15 October 2009, a concrete pumper at a housing development site in Coburg sunk in some mud just enough to swing the pump’s hose into a worker, killing him.  Other media reports say that a stand of the pumper may have malfunctioned.

There are always many lessons from workplace deaths but one to be taken from this incident is that external factors to the actual tasks in hand must be considered.  Those factors, in this case weather and soil stability, can change within a work period and this variability of environment must be watched and anticipated.

Mud on a construction site is not a new hazard.  But if a hazard is not always  present or regularly encountered, it is easy to give it less attention.

Kevin Jones

Categories construction, death, environment, OHS, risk, safety, Uncategorized, workplaceTags , , ,

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