George’s Christmas Safety Message

George’s Xmas Safety Message

First published in December 2012 by George Robotham. George passed away suddenly in September 2013 and this message is republished each year in his honour.

Read all of George’s articles here: Complete Works of George Robotham

Depositphotos_33808163_xs_thumb.jpgChristmas is a time when many are more likely to drink and drive, it may help to reflect on my experiences in this area.

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.

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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