George’s Xmas Safety Message
First published in December 2012 by George Robotham. George passed away suddenly in September 2013. George made a lot of friends in the safety industry during his career, left an incredible legacy and positively influenced many new safety people through his mentoring. He also upset a lot of people – but only because he stood up for what he believed in and didn’t pull any punches!
This message is republished again this year in his honour.
Read all of George’s articles here: Complete Works of George Robotham
I spent my late teens and early 20’s in the Australian Army, mid 20’s and 30’s at mine sites, tough, male orientated environments where heavy drinking was encouraged. I used to regularly drink & drive, sometimes pretty pissed, obviously at odds with my safety role at work.
When I started my first mining safety job the company decided to put me in a day shift relief mining supervisors job for a month to get to know the blokes and understand the operations. My first job Monday morning was to drive down the haul road to see how many guide posts had to be replaced. The haul truck drivers used to start the first shift of the week 11 pm Sunday night and come into work tired and / or pissed from the weekend. They used to lose attention, drift off the road, knock out the guide post and the theory was the stimulus of drifting into the table drain used to wake them up. Sunday night was always the worst time for guide posts.
Was probably 1976 at Blackwater mine when I was at a Christmas function at the mine, got a call that a company car had rolled and the 2 occupants were trapped in the car, I gather together a few mine rescue squad people (all of us pissed), jump in the mine rescue vehicle and proceed to extricate the 2 pissed occupants of the rolled vehicle. Even though they had quite a few injuries they did not want to be taken to hospital as this would attract the attention of the coppers.
Was probably 1979 I had an advanced driving consultant come to another mine to run a course for supervisors, he gets to talk about drink driving, one participant says he cannot understand all the fuss about drink driving as it is only a 6 pack trip from the mine to town (about 20 kilometres)
After a bushfire came through the road from the mine to the town you could see the sun glistening off the empty stubbies on the side of the road from where people threw them out while driving home from the mine.
Driving from a mine to the nearby town we come across an overturned car, the passenger is sitting in the table drain and the driver is in the upside down car, I cut him out of the seat belt , take him out of the car and lay him on the ground, when I check his pulse there is none. The 2 blokes had had a gut full of grog at a happy hour at the mine.
For a number of years my company used to have annual mine picnics at the oval at the mine, great affairs with lots of entertainment for the family. Everybody had a gutful of grog & tucker and people were often seen leaving with a 6 pack for the trip back to town. After far too many car smashes the company put an end to the mine picnics.
The Qld mining industry has had random drug & grog testing at work for many years in an attempt to combat 2 major problems.
I have been very careful about drink driving for many years, I like to tell myself I am more responsible now but I have to admit that lurking in the back of my mind is the fact that I think I have a pretty good chance of being caught if I do drink & drive. I rarely go to a pub and am content to have a few drinks at home.
Despite my advice all of my 3 boys have gone for D.D. The fine, the inconvenience, the humbling requirement to rely on me to get them to work & uni and their realisation that if they do it again they will get caught has changed their behaviour.
Drink driving is no longer socially acceptable and in some areas in Australia you have a good chance of being caught.
Nowadays I just think you are a bloody idiot if you drink and drive and I have no sympathy for those that are caught.
Reflecting on my experience I was lucky I did not kill myself or an innocent party.