Health & Safety Issues


Health & Safety has had a presence throughout my working life; sometimes essential, othertimes overbearing and intrusive. Returning to the UK after 7 years experience of field surveys in Hong Kong, I suddenly found that I had to fill out a ‘risk assessment’ to carry out a walkover of an abandoned airfield. My first job (on oil tankers in the early 1980s) involved attention to detail such as checking whether the crew’s watches would ignite pockets of explosive gas (actually unfeasibly improbable) while allowing me and my colleagues to work 20 hour days removing asbestos lagging from engine room steam pipes without masks. On my first trip at sea, I was specifically ‘logged’ for riding the ship’s bicycle around the deck on a sunny day because the occasional foamy spray was flying over the bulwark. On my last voyage, I logged the fact that the both the ship’s lifeboats had been simultaneously taken for joyrides by senior officers in the harbour of Guam and both broke down leaving the ship’s remaining crew without a means of escape. For this last act I was blackballed and labelled vindictive, so I have a longstanding and bitter-sweet association with H&S.

On one of the previous posts (Learning to count in the Philippines) I showed photos of up to 5 people on a moped. I missed the slightly rarer 6 and 7 people per moped, but they are around. As an alternative to road safety, here are some other important safety tips for working on your land and building sites.

We had 8 coconut trees felled for building materials. This artisan and his accomplice turned up with one enormous chainsaw. Here they are using an oily rope to mark their lines on the trunks

Trained H&S specialists will note that our lumberjack is missing certain important PPE. How many missing items can you name?

Can any sharp-eyed viewers spot an additional 'unsafe act' demonstrated in this photo?

I’ve got to hand it to these two guys. They felled 8 trees, from which they milled 160 planks of wood in a day and a half with no dramas. And I checked, they had a full compliment of eyes, fingers and toes – they do this for a living, day in, day out.

Plank after perfect plank

Robert demonstrates the craft of splitting bamboo with a machete and a wooden club. Extra points for identifying missing personal protective equipment that might save Robert's big toe.

Are flip-flops adequate protective gear in this situation?

On the other hand, it is possible to take too many precautions when breaking rocks with a hammer.

This photo illustrates a pragmatic approach to H&S. Safety goggles to protect the eyes from fossilised coral shrapnel.

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