Site safety and attitudes towards their changes

15 February 2018


I entered the building industry 34 years ago last year initially in a sales role since that time almost everything I ever learned or had anything to do with has gone through a period of being reviewed, refined, reinvented, rebranded and/or made bigger or smaller, but always improved. And that's just the cash register, let alone all the other products.

Smart phones have replaced the clipboard or ubiquitous "lump of 4x2" timber shopping list (100mm x 50mm to people post 1974) scrawled so illegibly that any medical doctor would be made proud; complete with the bosses order for a new cistern, box of ceramic tiles plus a pie, to be delivered by the company truck a1968 Bedford on its 3rd motor and sometimes needing a roll down a hill to jump-start; driven by any farmer's son doing a 'bit on the side' till harvest is ready. His replacement will be someone who knows someone from the footy club, who has the the job for a few weeks till the surf improves. 

I'm trying to remember any item or product that was universally used back then that has now become part of folklore or consigned to the memory of a long ago Friday Afternoon drinks session, when clock off time was 5.30pm and we only worked till 12.00 Noon on Saturdays. It seems that all our tools have become far more capable, far better quality and a lot less expensive, with quality brands having stood the test of time still available, now running on batteries instead of mains power and now transitioned to Lithium Ion (LiIon) and brushless motors, the next generation will have Lithium Polymer (LiPo) and run at least 50% longer than they currently do and weigh 30% less. 

Hiviz? Never crossed anyone's mind, a Jackie Howe pair of Stubbies and a pair of Adidas 3 stripe blue runners or the universal double plugger rubber thongs most drivers had tucked under their seats, steel capped boots were optional, just incase the splintered bed of the tray got too bad to safely walk on in bare feet when pushing 3 tonnes of reo steel off with your foot.

No nothing much has changed except we take more care of what we're doing, we are less likely to walk over a roof frame carrying 3 roof beams on our shoulder walking on a 2"x 1 1/2" batten, 2 storeys up, we have a process to follow and bins on site to put recyclables in and waste in others, a cuppa to chat and light up a 'rollie' before getting started is now a 'Toolbox" meeting sans 'Rollie' and takes place in an air-conditioned transportable site shed, instead of the last 3 joists on the unfinished 2nd floor. 

The customary safety induction lesson a few simple words along the lines and in some cases "Don't put your hands anywhere you wouldn't put your old fella if ya' want to keep them!"

No the only thing that has been consigned to a distant memory is the risks that were taken for granted as part of working on a building site. And that's something I'm glad has changed.

Because customers still "Want it yesterday, or actually the day before would have been better!"

"The quote is still too dear or the opposition can supply it including an additional bell & whistle for the same price and surely you can do better than them because I remember that's what I paid for it last time!" 

Andrew Bounader

34 years in the building and construction industry in Australia and overseas. Involved in testing of new building and construction techniques as well as repairs and maintenance to failed building systems, slabs, walls and roofs. Living on the border of country NSW and Vic as a property inspector.


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