Safety – From a Non-Boring Point of View


Safety – From a Non-Boring Point of View

As you will know if you are a regular reader of my posts here and elsewhere, one of my regular topics is Safety. 

I know, many of you will be heading for the exit just now. Not another boring lecture on safety” I hear you cry.

Please bear with me, though.

I want to share with you some of the things I learned at the recent NSW Regional Safety Conference in beautiful Newcastle, where I was a presenter. There are three things that I look for in a good conference;

  • new knowledge, 
  • challenging thinking and
  • inspiration.

This conference delivered on all counts.

New knowledge.

A conference is always a success when you come away with new knowledge, and the means to make that knowledge work for you. My favourite in this category was Terry Wong from Move4Life. Terry had us all up and moving, showing us how our daily activities can be contributing to our long-term aches and pains. He taught us that the way your thumb is pointing is the way your shoulder rotates.

With your elbow at your side, put your thumb up like a hitchhiker. Now rotate your thumb inwards (towards your tummy). What happens to your elbow? It rotates outwards, away from your body. That puts a strain on your shoulder, giving you those shoulder and neck aches.

I suffer from this constantly and thought it was just an occupational hazard. No more though – I’ve ordered a Vertical Mouse – a thing I had never heard of, to help my aches and pains thanks to Terry’s presentation.

Challenging thinking.

In this category, Keith Johnson, Safety Manager of Fulton Hogan (a large industrial company), was the winner. Keith strode onto the stage and proceeded to question much of the received wisdom of the safety industry. Left and right, he tackled every elephant in the safety room, and then some.

I was silently cheering from my table, knowing that I would be repeating some of his thoughts the following day in my own presentation. As an example, Keith took to an industry standard measure of safety performance (LTIFR – Long Term Injury Frequency Rate) with a metaphorical sword and vehemently advocated for change. I agree with Keith and hope that his challenging presentation will ignite further discussions.


This is a difficult category, and I can’t pick one outstanding presentation from three candidates. 

1. Kasheeva Chanderjith.

I bow to Kasheeva Chanderjith. Kash was born profoundly deaf, to a poor, coloured family in apartheid South Africa. Not a great start in life, but her intellect and fierce determination have taken her to the very top of the accounting profession. She now works for Qantas and advocates for people with disabilities. People like Kash make our own achievements seem puny by comparison.

2. Alan Newey.

Alan Newey lost his arm in an industrial accident many years ago, and is now Australia’s first “Bionic Man”, with an artificial arm he can control with his thoughts. And now Alan uses his experience to educate others – not just about the immediate effects of an accident, but the long, long tail of effects that follow. These creep out from the actual accident and engulf so many other people that you would never think about.

Alan speaks about his family, his co-workers, the medical system, the company he worked for, and much more. His presentation is raw and confronting, even after all the years. For the sake of an $800 machinery guard …

3. Patrizia Cassaniti.

Patrizia Cassaniti brought me (and many others) to tears. Just three months ago, her 21 year old son Christopher was killed in a scaffolding accident. Patrizia has turned her personal tragedy into a crusade for reform of safety legislation – #ChristophersLaw. Already, she has collaborated on the development of an App.

The App will allow construction workers to anonymously send photos of unsafe building sites to regulators for investigation. Patrizia is not very tall, but I would advise any politicians in her path to be very, very prepared.

I hope that by sharing my experience of the conference, I have also been able to prompt you to think about safety in a non-boring manner.

How is safety “done” at your place of work? Does it need a shake-up? Does it take into account people with disabilities? Have you really thought about the long-term impacts if you or someone else was injured? At the very least, consider buying yourself a Vertical Mouse.

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