Around the turn of the century a father told me this
“My son was 19 years old and he was killed in an accident in a small warehouse in a suburb of Toronto. In this little shop, it was a small business with only 4 or 5 people there. He got the job through a friend whose Father ran the business. It was the second or third day on the job and he was asked to go back and decant some fluid from a large drum to some small vessels. The action violated every OHS regulation in the book. There were multiple ignition sources, there was no grounding. A spark went off and lit up the fumes that went back in the drum and it exploded over my son. He died 24 hours later.”
That father was Canadian, Paul Kells, and this traumatic event set him on a journey to improve safety for young workers. Paul established the Safe Communities Foundation.
Paul has travelled to Australia several times and he has been granted audiences with many OHS regulators but it seems that government of South Australia is the most ardent supporter of Paul’s Passport to Safety program.
Over 5000 students in South Australia have completed the program since 2005 and the government is trying to reach the target of 20,000 teenage students. A sponsorship form is available for download.
SafetyAtWorkBlog supports Paul’s work and the sponsorship initiative of the South Australian government.
This is what the workplace safety ads in Australia are missing, a passionate advocate who speaks about the reality of workplace death and personal loss – someone who has turned grief into a social entrepreneurship. If only this type of inspiration could happen without the cost of a life.
My 2000 interview with Paul is available by clicking on this link kell-interview. It was originally published in SafetyAtWork magazine in February 2001.
Every so often one will hear of an occupational that is “inherently dangerous”. Every time we hear this or see the phrase in print we should protest loudly. If a safety professional uses the term, they should be shunned.
Anything that is described as “inherently dangerous” reflects on the lazy thinking of the describer. Working on a house roof was once inherently dangerous. A firefighter running into a burning building was once (still is in the United States) an inherently dangerous activity.
Nothing is inherently dangerous when it comes to safety management. Although it may be that a suitable control measure has yet to be devised, danger can be minimised or eliminated.
The Confederation of Australian Motor Sports (CAMS) juxtaposes “inherently dangerous” with OHS in its policy:
The Confederation of Australian Motor Sport Ltd (CAMS) is committed to providing, so far as it is practicable, its stakeholders with a structured environment to minimise risks to health, safety and welfare. CAMS recognise that motor sport is inherently dangerous and will continue to strive to minimise risk to those involved through a shared and integrated approach to health and safety.
In a Brief History of Lighting in the US, the elimination of an inherent risk is amply illustrated with the move from gas lighting to electricity over time.
Around 1920, word was out that gas lighting was inherently dangerous and too many homes were burning down, and homeowners should remove their gas lighting and give the safer new-fangled electric lights a chance, even though electricity was probably just a fad.
“Inherently dangerous” dampens innovation (a buzzword in modern management) and should be avoided at all costs.
One wonders how safe our world would have been if “inherently dangerous” was allowed to dominate our legislation in the way that “reasonably practicable” has.