CommentWorkplace Safety

Greg Sheehan: A long hot summer made worse by PPE

By Greg Sheehan, Sheehan’s Transport Assistance

 WELL, HERE WE go again. A long hot summer made worse by PPE, February 2018 Contractor magazine.

Somebody brave enough to stand up and say, “What a nonsense!” David’s views on workplace PPE and mine are of the same opinion. Will PPE stand for ‘poor pricks expired’ in the future?

Back in March last year I rattled some cages on the same topic, only to get fobbed off by persons deemed to be dedicated to preserving us from ourselves.

WorkSafe NZ, nearly 12 months later, still cannot accept the fact, that with some exceptions, we need to look after ourselves in all manner of things to do with how and where we work. Yes, I accept that there are requirements around workplace safety, but for ‘Pete’s sake’, can’t we be expected to have some logical input ourselves, especially how we dress for our work!

Some 51 years on from when I started in road transport and construction, our PPE has certainly improved from floppy cotton sunhat, sunglasses and boots.

For the past 20 odd years, my own business of providing heavy haulage operators with professional oversize load piloting, still uses that same PPE, but now with a hi-viz polo shirt … plus other items that are weather, or site specific.

Where site requirements dictate the additional items, then they are also worn as applicable, such as a hard hat, safety glasses, ear protection buds or ear muffs, leather gloves, hi-viz rain coats, or vests that are also reflectorised.

I have, and use, an NZTA approved coloured white pilot vehicle with prescribed regulation signage, lights of various amber and purple combinations, depending on the size of the load. And I’ll wager a case of Martinborough Pinot Noir that WorkSafe NZ has no idea what the various combinations of amber and purple lights mean, relative to the oncoming size of the load.

I have a very good first aid kit, which I have used on more than one occasion to patch up a colleague’s cut, or unnecessary small injury.

I have a reflectorised STOP/GO sign, a red flag and white gloves for traffic control, a fire extinguisher, three different radios to talk to every truck on the road to advise them of any necessary action on their part and radios to contact forestry crews and despatch offices. I also have a hands-free Bluetooth phone to ring home to tell Karin that I’m late again, or make another arrangement to enable a safe heavy shift somewhere. I have spare bulbs, generally given to another transporter who has a light out somewhere and other, carry ‘stuff’ that someone might need to ensure safety. All this is not just for the blokes that we are working alongside, but we also have to look after the safety of the public such as visitors in campervans from outer Hanoi or inner Transylvania, as they stare eyes wide shut and mouths wide open, stopped in the centre of the road, as we pass!

I like to think that I’m safety aware and all of the above represents my ‘PPE’ that is job specific, and I do try and look out for my mates with whom I work.

Since just before Christmas, most of my recent work has revolved around the shifting of forestry crews. These guys also work in an industry marred with possible injury potential, and work bloody hard in sometimes atrocious conditions with mud or dust and, believe me, the central North Island pumice country can produce heat and dust like nowhere else and the dress code is definitely not full sleeve clothing protection. Heat stress, as David has alluded too, is a serious problem and the mandatory wearing of full long sleeve shirts and trousers in this instance would be ridiculous (leg chaps for chainsaw operators excepted).

I say: hard hat – yes; gloves – yes; boots – yes; hi-viz shirt – yes. Any other gear is a decision relative to how you need to dress to do your job safely and watch out for your mates!

Yes, I agree, the need for individual attention to your own personal workplace safety is a must, but water and lots of it from a readily accessible chilly bin, perhaps sun cream before the dust rises, would be a far more sensible action to take, than being compelled to dress inappropriately.

Try helping the transporter driver to load, guiding him or her as the log processor machine walks up the ramps, chain it down (and there are rules regarding this too), place hazard panels to delineate the dimensions of the load, sweep or shovel excess dirt or clay off both the load and the transporter deck and then get on with it! We’re shifting a whole forestry crew today. It’s only a short haul and there are nine machines, processors, grapple loaders, blade machines and log arches, fuel container and the smoko container too.

It’s forecast to be 28 degrees this arvo! … Hi-viz polo shirt and shorts, sunglasses, hard hat, gloves and boots is the correct PPE today!

• See also ‘A long hot summer made worse by PPE‘  and ‘PPE comments from the readership‘.

This article was first published in Contractor‘s March issue.

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