Archive for the ‘Workplace Safety’ Category

Dead Body In Open House Viewing

Prospective tenants got more than they bargained for when viewing a property up for rent in Perth. One prospective tenant discovered a body in the bedroom. The lady pictured, while she didn’t see the corpse, has said she and her boyfriend are traumatised by the incident. Spare a thought for the real estate agent not to mention the family of the deceased.

No Risk, No Reward

If you play with fire you are bound to be burned sooner or later. These three teenagers performing a stunt where they ride their bikes through burning cardboard were doing this for the first time. The organisers have set this stunt up many times before without incident, apparently; but this time it went ‘horribly wrong’. Given the ingredients of fire and teenage kids, how else could it go if it goes wrong other than ‘horribly’?

Should we now call to ban all such events? Stop teenagers doing anything remotely risky? Or perhaps ensure those responsible for the safety and setting up of these things double and triple check them first? Even then, f there is no risk of it all going ‘horribly wrong’, where is the thrill? The danger? The reason for doing it in the first place?

Life is not risk free, even today. Humans have only ever moved forward after taking risks, daring mightily and pushing the envelope. Along the way there are casualties but so long as we learn from our mistakes and keep trying to do better, then their sacrifice was never in vein. If we aren’t prepared to take risks then we can’t expect anything to happen… good or bad and that can’t be good for mankind.

Blood Money & Eggshell Skulls

While the suicide of Jacintha Saldanha is tragic, to be fair one must pause and ask a few questions that are definitely not politically correct but nonetheless need to be asked. The nurse took a prank call from a Sydney radio station with the two DJ’s pretending to be HM the Queen and HRH Prince Charles. She believed them to be who they said they were and passed on the call to a colleague who revealed intimate details of the Duchess of Cambridge’s medical condition. A week later, Saldanha has taken her own life and the presumption is that it was directly because of this incident.

First of all, I think it shameful and disgusting that the DJs thought the personal and very private details of anyone’s pregnancy is fair game and should be public knowledge. That is poor taste in the extreme but sadly not a crime, I believe. It raises a lot of questions about what is and isn’t acceptable these days, especially as we seem to be becoming a society of softies, ready to take offence at the drop of a hat.

Secondly, for someone to be so deeply affected they abandon their husband and two teenage children and take their own life is something I can’t fathom. I find it cowardly and selfish in the extreme and I appreciate how devastating such an event is to those who loved the deceased. I have friends who have lost loved ones to suicide and mentioning this no doubt opens old wounds. For that I apologise but I do believe we need to discuss this topic openly, remove the media ban on reporting suicides and let the public know just how widespread a tragedy suicide actually is. I do think some of us are more susceptible to suiciding than others but the eggshell skull doctrine comes into play here.

There is a legal concept called the ‘eggshell skull’ which declares that even if the blow to the head wouldn’t have harmed 99% of the population, it did harm this victim as they had an eggshell skull. In other words each case must be tried on its merits and not on the merits of every other case. If Saldanha is more susceptible to such an extreme reaction to these specific events than anyone else int he world, so be it. But to me she must have had other issues, surely? She only passed on the call, she didn’t initiate it nor did she give the information away. Yet she appears to have felt sufficiently guilty to suicide. Sorry, but to me that is being about as selfish as you can be. We all handle situations differently to some degree but this is an extreme reaction, surely? There must have been underlying issues that were kicked over the edge by this, as if it was the trigger event she had been waiting for. I could be wrong of course but this is the only explanation I can accept as being the most logical.

What about the radio station? They suspended advertising to protect their advertisers from fall out. Fair enough but that was more commercially motivated and PR driven than anything else and that is understandable, they didn’t know the deceased. Yet to offer a $500,000 payment is so typical of today. As if money will fix everything. Blood money. Money will assuage the guilt and cleanse the slate. It is a bit like the news presenter telling us that, at the scene of the bus accident involving twenty schoolkids counselling has been offered to everyone. Great, we can all let out a sigh of relief, they are getting counseling so that means we don’t have to develop a psychosis over this. We sit in our overstuffed lounge chairs watching our giant flat screen TVs and suck up the gospel according to big business and those who mold our minds to consume what they make the most profit from. We are warned that the scenes we are about to see might cause some viewers distress. Well aren’t we bleeding lucky we aren’t actually there on the scene seeing everything! All the real horror of a bomb ripping apart women and children in a Middle Eastern marketplace,  blood and body bits hanging from trees. if they forget to cut out every morsel of reality and accidentally leave us with a large blood stain to shock ourselves over, they warn us before hand Don’t want someone sueing the TV station, do we. Can’t have real life push aside the construct the powers that be create for us so we can continue to consume in guilt free bliss.

Offering the money is as good as an admission of guilt in my book. The radio station is settling out of court, mitigating the collateral damage and all the other 21st century cliches and media catchphrases. A nice, large number, five hundred grand. Minimum. If they make more in ad sales between now and New Year’s then they will hand that over. Why not? It is a charitable donation and thus tax deductible. If they don’t do this they may lose more advertising revenue but now the advertisers can feel good about advertising on a station staffed with DJs who don’t seem to think through their pranks. 2DayFM, the home of the arch idiot and mister arrogance himself Kyle Whatshisname. They must have the most experienced damage control team in the PR world!

So why did Jacintha Saldanha commit suicide? Was it just because of the 2DayFM prank call? Her family claim she is such a devout Catholic this would have been enough to set her off. Thank God I don’t believe in God! It seems like such an onerous responsibility. Make no mistake, the loss of this nurse is a tragedy. What is also tragic is that we, as a society, think it is acceptable, even funny, to trick someone into giving away private information for the sake of a few laughs and some ratings, increased advertising revenues and a couple of ego’s. It is tragic that we feel it acceptable to pay off the family and even use this as a tactic to mitigate the damage and minimise the fallout.

When my wife was pregnant nobody but friends and family cared. No radio stations called, no women’s magazines stalked her for photos of her baby bump. Her pregnancies were just as special and at the same time every day and run of the mill natural as any celebrity’s. Perhaps the real offender here, and the victim, is us. Society. That we give the media the signals that we accept what they do to bring us our bread and circuses. That we want to read this stuff, to be titillated and shocked. It is just a part of the human condition and we’ll never change, no matter how many Jacintha Saldanha’s feel despondent enough to commit suicide. This is not, as a species, our finest moment.

Double Standards, Glass Ceilings

Once again women cop it for being women. In Costa Rica a member of parliament and Deputy Minister for Youth, Karina Bolanos has been sacked because a personal video of hers taken over 5 years ago showing her on a bed and in her underwear was broadcast online. Nothing said about the computer engineer Bolanos alleges stole the file off her private computer and then used to blackmail her. Who is the criminal here? A young, attractive woman who has a private video that has nothing to do with her public role becomes the victim of some macho wanker and she is the one to lose her job. She is the one to be publicly embarrassed. She is the one who suffers and of course, the slant is that she is immoral and not fit to be DM of Youth. What rubbish! What macho madness!

If it had been a male deputy minister he would be winked at and back slapped and told what a stud he was and at worst he would receive a slap on the wrist. His morality would never be in question. His ethics, his decency would never be on trial. But because Bolanos has a vagina, she gets spat out and tossed on the heap! It is bloody wrong and yet it happens all the time and not just in religion infested places where medieval misogynistic mindsets still rule. The money making mob known as ‘the church’ (pick any one you like, they all make a ton of cash, tax free) have a vested interest in maintaining ancient and unfair hierarchies, the same for those who twist Islam to their own ends. If it were in the Tribal Areas of Waziristan I could understand but Costa Rica? Sadly it happens here in our society also and this two faced insult to gender equality needs to be stamped out wherever it rears its head.

Think about it fellas…. if it is good that she ‘puts out’ for you how can she be a slut if she ‘puts out’ for someone else next time? Yet it is fine for you to sow your wild oats with as many women as you can? That line of thought never made sense when I was a teenager in the 1970s and it will never make sense. It is wrong. Treating a woman differently than a man over the same issues is wrong, whether biased for or against. If a female member of parliament used public funds to pay for prostitutes for her gratification would it be any worse than the male ones we have standing accused of the same crime now? You bet it would be. Huge media beat up. The male transgressor just has to have his wife say how she forgives him or stands by him as he attempts to clear his name. Imagine if the female MP had her partner stand up for her? Blokes would think he is a wuss, less a man and all that while we applaud Mrs MP for standing by her man. What a two faced, double standard society we are!

There are two things men are better at than women. One is lifting heavy things and any smart woman will easily charm a bloke into doing it for her. the other, standing up to urinate, is vastly overrated.

Robert Fenwick R.N. Star of Courage

Robert Fenwick placed himself between the knives of a mental patient and the young 20 year old nurse he was trying to stab and saved her life. In doing so he gave his own. He has been awarded (posthumously) our Nation’s second highest award for bravery after the Cross of Valor  (other than the Victoria Cross of Australia which is for valor in the face of the enemy) the Star of Courage. Mr Fenwick SC was 63 and a father, dedicated to nursing and mental health. Once again, we forget those who serve us not just on the front line in Afghanistan, but everyday and night here in our own country. He was assisted by a patient, Brett French, who has been awarded the Bravery Medal.

These awards for courage and bravery underline how hazardous just earning your living can be for some of us. I no longer have to fear anything worse than a nasty papercut but there one was a time when going to work did not automatically guarantee returning in the same fit state one left. There are hazardous occupations throughout the community and not just police, fire, ambulance officers. AS we have seen, nurses and doctors and other medical professionals can be at risk. Security officers and bar staff all have their tales of irate punters having to be dealt with and of course bank tellers and shop assistants know the all too possible risk of being robbed at gun point.

Taxi drivers, bus drivers, train drivers, pilots, ferry crews all run risks every day just to do their jobs and serve us. Sales people who may find themselves alone in isolated situations, like real estate agents showing a house to a potential buyer or renter, who knows what that customer may have in mind? Then there are jobs that are inherently dangerous because of the work performed, like crane dog men standing under slung loads weighing many tons or fishermen out to sea in all weathers.

Pause for a moment and remember Mr Robert Fenwick SC. Consider that the nurse he saved had taken defensive wounds to her hands that included almost losing her little finger. Knives are lethal and no matter how well trained you might be, there is always the risk of sustaining injury when you have to disarm a knife attacker. I have done it more than once and never had a scratch but the difference there was the my attackers were trying to stab me, that’s all I’m sure. In this case the mental patient was intending to kill his victim and that makes it a very different thing altogether. Intent is everything when all other factors, like weapon and victim, are the same.

No doubt a microscopic examination of the situation and scene would find Mr Fenwick SC could have done a dozen things differently and perhaps the outcome would have been different however, hindsight is 20/20 and our hero didn’t have the luxury of time and distance to decide on the most likely to succeed course of action. He reacted immediately, instinctively and without hesitation. He took action in the most direct way possible, by placing himself between the attacker and the target. He did what many of us hope we would have the courage and the character to do in a similar situation. Vale Robert Fenwick, SC.


Filipino Escapes Kidnappers

A Filipino guide has escaped from Muslim kidnappers in the southern Philippines by diving overboard. The guide was with a Swiss and a Dutchman, taken hostage by Muslim criminals off Tawi Tawi. The daring escape was successful, but just as easily could have ended up with the escaper being killed. It is a proven tenet of escape and evasion that the sooner you can escape after capture the better your chances. Once you and your captors settle into a routine of sorts it gets harder to get away, not to mention you will be further from help and in the middle of their chosen territory. While the escaper feels guilty he left the other two behind, the reality is his life, as a Filipino, is worth less than the two foreigners and most likely he would be killed to show the kidnappers mean business.

Gren And Bear It

Apologies for the painful pun but this is an amazing, true, story. This woman was minding her own business at her street stall in Mexico when she was struck down. She awoke in hospital to find a grenade was lodged in her mouth. The grenade was live and had failed to explode after leaving the launcher, probably an M203 or perhaps from one of the new generation M32 pump action weapons. Whatever it was from, it had stuck in her mouth and hadn’t gone off. A brave surgical team operated on her for four hours… in an open field. The poor woman will now have to live the rest of her life with the scars, both physical and emotional but at least she is alive.

When In Rome, Or Riyahd…

A report today tells the chilling story of a Sri Lankan woman tortured by her Saudi Arabian employer by having nails inserted into her hands and other parts of her body. The torture and mistreatment of female domestic staff by Middle Eastern and Asian employers is not an uncommon event.

Filipina OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers) often run away from their employers in Kuwait, U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia after suffering abuse, rape and grievous injury. Singapore, Taiwan, China, South Korea and Hong Kong also have their share of abuse stories and sometimes the Filipina will react violently and suffer prison or execution as a result.

Why do these atrocities occur, over and over? Why more prevalent in some countries than others? Is there some societal or cultural value or standard that allows, even condones the treatment of other human beings in such a vile fashion, provided they are female, or employees or not of the same religion or whatever?

I think there are at least two main streams of thought. In the case of those mistreated by Asian (mostly Chinese) employers one can often see a sense of superiority for their own kind exhibited in many Asian people, almost an arrogant and contemptuous attitude towards those not of their ethnicity. When present in a western person it is labelled racism and is considered a sin, if not a crime. The cultural cringe still with us (westerners) following the end of colonial days and slaving seems to put us automatically on the back foot. We seem to fear calling it what it is when it is a non-white group doing the discriminating.

For those mistreated in the Middle East the abuse of the Islamic religion by many cultural groups is a key factor, surely? The attitude towards women displayed by Muslim men, contrary to the teachings of the Koran I might point out, makes it easy for one to follow the trail from dominating their own female family members to domination and abuse of female employees.

I know personally Filipinas who went to work in the Middle East and were brutally treated from the moment they landed and surrendered their passports to their employer or his agent. They were stuck there for several months working off their passage and application fees on top of what they had paid in cash back in Manila. No days off, worked from before dawn to well after midnight, fed poorly and often beaten and for some, sexually assaulted. It was a living hell.

So why do they still strive so hard to become an OFW? Because the situation at home, thanks in no small part to the rich oligarchy that owns the nation’s wealth and their enforcers in the church, military and police, is such that there is little to no hope of adequate employment. They have to work abroad to remit money for the entire family to live on. Sadly that often breeds a bunch of lazy relatives who do little but wait for the monthly remittance and then complain it is not enough, putting more pressure on the OFW to remain and continue suffering.

With the basic situation grim enough, it is tragic that they then suffer abuse and worse at the hands of their employers. Not all, of course. There are many excellent employers but there are too many bad ones, more than enough for inferences to be drawn.

When you work abroad, either as an OFW or an Australian in an expat situation, you are pretty much on your own. There is little your government can do and too often not a lot they want to do for you.

When you leave our shores you have to resign yourself to their way of life and their standards of acceptable behaviour, whatever they may be. Having worked in several overseas countries myself, I prefer to work in Australia for many reasons, not the least of which is that I understand the culture and can exist within it comfortably.

‘When in Rome’, as the saying goes. That doesn’t mean what the ‘Romans’ are doing is right or wrong but if they do it in their country and it is tolerated or legal there, then so be it. It behooves the individual to do their due diligence and fully investigate the culture before they let the dollar signs block their vision. We can’t grab pitchforks and torches and expect migrants to adapt to our culture if we aren’t willing to do the same should we choose to live in theirs. To expect special treatment based on our ethnicity or race is no different than mistreating others based on theirs, surely?

Finally, when it comes to working in Australia and working safely; know the law and know your rights. It is your responsibility to know what you are allowed and entitled to, not anyone else’s. Sure they should do the right thing but if they don’t then the onus is on you to know, 100%, what should be done and then to make it happen.

Boxing Kangaroos A Reality

I was doing some research on the risks faced by real estate agents when they show houses to people unknown to them when I came across this story about a Canberra based agent. He was out for a run during his lunch break when he was attacked by a kangaroo and knocked unconscious. The story continued with a report on a kangaroo that broke into a family home and hopped around wreaking havoc until wrestled out of the house by the home owner.

There are two points to be made here. First of all there are hazards in every occupation and often not ones we might foresee. I admit the jogger could have been an ice cream salesman out for a run and not a real estate agent but it goes to show no matter what your occupation, your time going to, at and from work can be perilous in various ways.  The second point is that even when in your own home you are not entirely safe from harm and who would ever have prepared a contingency plan for a kangaroo breaking in? Not me!

The lesson is that your safety can be at risk at any time, in any place from any number of causes. You can never prepare 100% for any and all eventualities so don’t worry too much about this. Don’t abandon all risk analysis and preparation but do accept you can’t proof yourself and your loved ones against everything. And stay away from kangaroos!

Violence Begins At Home

A report today of a teacher assaulted and seriously injured at the local high school has me thinking about my own experiences with that school’s ‘kids’. I prepared a 20 page supporting document to have my daughter attend an ‘out of area’ school next year when she goes to High School because of the fears we hold for her if she were to attend this school. I have seen the police form a skirmish line and drive mobs of school kids milling about the forecourt of a petrol station at a nearby campus of the same college. We know the kids that go to this school because she has had several years of primary school with them and the good ones are few and far between.

I blame the parents, totally. So many of them are dysfunctional, substance abusing and with below average IQs and more practically, low emotional intelligence. They are what the Americans would call trailer trash or ‘Wal-Polloi’. We call them ‘bogans’, ‘westies’ or ‘yobbo’s’. Social invective aside, it doesn’t change the outcomes. You can have all the sympathy in the world for them and their plight but in Australia in 2010 there is little excuse other than mental illness to explain their parenting style. Those that have parents. Most are lucky to have one and too many have ‘care givers’ or carers. Guardians is the old term. Caregiver or carer is so much fuzzier, don’t you think? Doesn’t change the outcome though.

I repudiate any claim that poverty causes such anti-social behaviour and built up anger. It doesn’t help but the facts are that these people would be broke even if they received twice the benefits or wages they get now. As the English humourist C.N. Parkinson once said, ‘expenses will rise to meet income’. For several years now we have been living on exactly the same income they do, more or less, as I was a student for 18 months, then unemployed for a few more while convalescing from my heart surgery and now we are in the NEIS stream, which is the same income as the unemployment benefit while you develop your own business. Yet we have a mortgage, superannuation, private health insurance, pay off a block of land and eat well. It is tough and requires discipline and a good budget as well as the will to say ‘no’ a lot of the time but we manage. Both our school age children are doing well with the eldest a vice-captain.

So it has little if anything to do with income level and everything to do with one’s upbringing. I was brought up well, I feel,  and so was my wife and both of us come from low income families, hers more than mine. All six kids in her family graduated high school thanks to considerable sacrifices by her parents yet they valued education highly enough to do what had to be done. In this country our education is free. Our health care is free. We can travel to school for free.  We have internet access at the library for free. We get help buying uniforms and if we have real problems we can get help on top of help! There is no excuse except, perhaps, some people are just made that way? Maybe some people are intrinsically bad. It is the only excuse I can come up with.

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