Tales of the unexpected

Tales of the unexpected

I’ve been hearing about such idiotic behaviour on the health and safety front recently that I am wondering if we shouldn’t start our very own SHEQ MANAGEMENT Darwin Awards …

I’m sure all our readers know about the Darwin Awards, which are named in honour of Charles Darwin, the father of evolution, and “commemorate those who improve our gene pool by removing themselves from it”. Lest you have been living on Mars (an increasingly likely prospect thanks to Elon Musk), the Darwin Awards recognise those individuals who have died under particularly idiotic circumstances.

Recent examples include a Brazilian couple who parked on a freeway for a quickie (they were hit by a truck), a South African waitress who swam in a crocodile-infested river three times (she survived the first two dips) and a Brazilian guard who electrocuted himself to death on his own fence (he forgot it was there).

My personal favourite is another Brazilian (what is it with the Brazilians?) who tried to disassemble a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) by driving back and forth over it with a car. This technique was ineffective, so he escalated to pounding the RPG with a sledgehammer. The second try worked – in a sense. The explosion proved fatal to one man, six cars and the repair shop wherein the efforts took place.

These stories almost sound too bizarre to be true, but apparently they’re all perfectly true. And, quite frankly, based on recent incidents I have observed, they no longer defy belief. These are just some of my recent health and safety horror stories … some funny, some bizarre, others truly shocking …

Who needs brakes?

In order to reduce running expenses, the rear brakes on all the trucks within a well-known company’s fleet of trucks were recently disconnected. I kid you not! The logic? There would be no wear and tear on the rear brakes – because they were not being used. This is a stock exchange listed company within South Africa!

Let there be light

My next tale also comes from the transport industry. A gentleman, who wanted to check the level of fuel in a tanker, popped his lighter or cellphone (the jury is out on this) into the tank. The resulting explosion is well documented on YouTube. Check it out at www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgjI4PacHgk.

Beautiful noise? I don’t think so …

From a big bang to big noise. Recently I was chatting to a safety professional who was completely outraged at conditions in India. It turns out that workers at a certain company are regularly exposed to over 110 decibels of noise (that is a lot of noise) without being given any hearing protection whatsoever. Understandably, countless cases of noise-induced hearing loss are resulting …

A 100 percent failure!

It’s seldom that I hear about a 100 percent failure. But that’s precisely what happened last month in Taipei, Taiwan, when the New Taipei City Labour Standards Inspection Office revealed that it had inspected all 20 coating, dye and paint manufacturers in the city … and all 20 were in violation of health and safety regulations! Violations ranged from improper waste disposal to a failure to issue proper safety gear.

Medical blues

Also in an international vein, I recently heard about an Ohio abortion clinic that was bust for numerous health and safety violations. These included not vetting doctors it allowed to perform abortions, not cleaning and disinfecting surgical equipment and the incorrect storage of “frozen (human) tissue”. (Goodness knows what they did with it.) Apparently the clinic also didn’t dispose of urine samples (many of which were found sitting around unlabeled throughout the clinic), single-use medical equipment and expired medical supplies. It sounds just plain horrific.

Sweet endings? Certainly not …

On a local front, I’ve discovered that one of the country’s leading chocolate producers is now deducting money from the pay of workers for all their personal protective equipment (PPE). This is obviously a total violation of Section 23 of the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act, which prohibits employers from doing that!

Branching out

I’ve saved my favourite health and safety tale for last. My neighbour’s roof was becoming quite cluttered with leaves – so he asked his gardener to trim an offending tree. The gardener climbed the tree and sawed off the branch – on which he was sitting. He subsequently spent a week in Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital where, hopefully, the conditions were immeasurably better than those at the Ohio clinic …

If we did launch our very own Darwin Awards, I think he would be the undisputed winner …

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