Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Safety & The Brain


Picture the scene, downtown Johannesburg 1989, 18 floors up ……

Unparalleled urban expansion in Johannesburg throughout the 80’s, gave rise to many of the city’s then modern new buildings. For one particular development project, a building was in-cased in steel framework, the purpose of which was to insert glass for decorative purposes, similar to that of our own Essex Terrace building.

An engineer while inspecting framework on the 18th floor, requested a labourer to stand on a scaffold that was projecting through one of the openings where a glass sheet would later be installed. The labourer essentially served as a counterweight, allowing the engineer to walk out onto the scaffold and check the exterior.

Incredibly, after the engineer had left, the worker felt the need to walk out onto the same scaffold to see what the engineer was looking at... Needless to say he didn’t walk away with just a sprained ankle.

The extraordinarily irresponsible engineer was the first to put himself at risk, betting his life on the labourer not deserting his post at a critical time. What then followed was an act of sublime stupidity.

With respect to modern day construction occupational health and safety legislation, back in the day they obviously did things very differently. What hasn't changed is that the brain still remains the most important safety tool.

Ernest Roper
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