Progress? in Health & Safety

Progress? in Health & Safety

By George Robotham

I had to give a talk about health and safety to a different group of people than I normally talk to, so I decided to try something different. My research led me to early causes of health & safety problems and early health & safety legislation.

'All these are shrimp pickers. Youngest in photo are 5 and 8 years old. Biloxi, Miss, February 1911' photo (c) 1911, The U.S. National Archives - license:

The causes of The Black Death, otherwise referred to as the plague, that decimated England were said to be-

Excessive masturbation (I do not know how they figured out how much was too much)

Conjunction of the planets

Wrath of God

Evil spirits

Plague Regulation, Rouen, France, 1507

Do not gamble, fornicate or curse

Avoid other sinful excesses that are likely to arouse the anger of God

Early British health & safety legislation was focused on the employment of young people in factories and mills during the Industrial Revolution.

British Health & Morals of Apprentices Act, 1802

No night work

Not over 12 hours of work

Separate sex sleeping accommodation (Apparently not all the accidents were industrial)

Religious instruction provided

Toilets provided

Clothes to be provided

U.K. Factories Act, 1844

No children under 8 employed

Meals not in the workplace

Dangerous machines fenced

Alternate days of school and work

Hours by a public clock (Apparently some factory owners set their clocks to run slow so they could get extra hours out of the workers)

Workers 8-13 not to work more than 6.5 hours a day

The cynic in me says current health and safety legislation has not moved on sufficiently from the times of our forefathers.

George can be contacted on, he welcomes debate on the above (it would be indeed a boring world if everybody agreed with George)

George Robotham, Cert. IV T.A.E.,. Dip. Training & Assessment Systems, Diploma in Frontline Management, Bachelor of Education (Adult & Workplace Education), (Queensland University of Technology), Graduate Certificate in Management of Organisational Change, (Charles Sturt University), Graduate Diploma of Occupational Hazard Management), (Ballarat University), Accredited Workplace Health & Safety Officer (Queensland),Justice of the Peace (Queensland), Australian Defence Medal, Brisbane, Australia,,,07-38021516, 0421860574, My passion is the reduction of permanently life altering (Class 1 ) personal damage

George Robotham

George Robotham

George was a Legend in the Safety World who passed away in Sept 2013 but left us with a great legacy
George Robotham
I have worked in OHS for most of my working life, many years in the mining industry including over 10 years in a corporate OHS role with BHP. Since leaving the mining industry I have worked in a variety of safety roles with a variety of employers, large & small, in a variety of industries. I was associated with my first workplace fatality at age 21, the girl involved was young, intelligent, vivacious and friendly. Such a waste! I was the first on the scene and tried to comfort her and tend to her injuries. She said to me “George, please do not let me die” We put her on the aerial ambulance to Rockhampton base hospital where she died the next day. I do not mind telling you that knocked me around for awhile. Since then I have helped my employers cope with the aftermath of 12 fatalities and 2 other life-altering events. The section "Why do Occupational Health & Safety" provides further detail but in summary, poor safety is simply very expensive and also has a massive humanitarian cost. My qualifications include a certificate I.V. in Workplace Training and Assessment, a Diploma in Frontline Management, a Diploma in Training & Assessment Systems, a Bachelor of Education (Adult & Workplace Education) , a Grad. Cert. in Management of Organisational Change and a Graduate Diploma in Occupational Hazard Management. I am currently studying towards a Masters in Business Leadership. Up until recently I had been a Chartered Fellow of the Safety Institute of Australia for 10 years and a member for about 30 years. My interest is in non-traditional methods of driving organisational change in OHS and I have what I believe is a healthy dis-respect for many common approaches to OHS Management and OHS Training. I hold what I believe is a well-founded perception that many of the things safety people and management do in safety are “displacement activities” (Displacement activities are things we do, things we put a lot of energy into, but which when we examine them closely there is no valid reason for doing them). My managerial and leadership roles in OHS have exposed me to a range of management techniques that are relevant to Business Improvement. In particular I am a strong supporter of continuous improvement and quality management approaches to business. I believe leadership is the often forgotten key to excellence in most aspects of life. I hold the Australian Defence Medal and am a J.P.(Qualified). I have many fond memories of my time playing Rugby Union when I was a young bloke.

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