Health & Safety – it is all about YOU…

With much fanfare, new laws a few years ago ushered in a new era of health and safety awareness in NZ.  Ads on TV pleaded to allow all workers to return home safely after their day’s work.  There were dire predictions about the cost of it all;  farm workers received special treatment despite having one of the worst accident rates.  Weird assessments deemed things like doll making a particularly hazardous occupation (I’m making that up but it was something like that).

I am not really one for rules and regulations.  I had a bad experience a few years ago in an employment dispute – what might be expected of any thinking adult is no longer enough – we must have policies and procedures, written, signed off as read and understood, and adhered to.  Some would say, and I am probably one of them, that it is a bit over the top.

As a self-employed landscape designer, my biggest danger is tripping over the cat as I get another cup of tea, waiting for the creative inspiration to strike.

While it is easy to slag off, I am reading a book which has reminded me that all was not as rosy as it is today.  ‘A History of Britain Book IV 1815 – Present Day’ clips along through the famous Corn Laws and reform necessitated by the effects of the Industrial Revolution on the poor and working classes.  To quote:

“On no part of the community did the tyranny of mill life press harder than on the children.  Child labour was useful because it was cheap, and because children could be employed in the comparatively easy task of minding the machines…. Hard indeed was the lot of these wretched little ones.  Dragged from their beds in the early hours of the morning, they had to work for 5 or 6am to 7 or 8pm with perhaps two half-hours off for meals.  They were subjected to cruel beatings, for the overseers resorted to violence not merely to get them to work but to keep them awake,”  (page 770).   It was not until 1819 that the Cotton Factories Regulation Act (applying only to cotton mills) fixed 12 working hours as the maximum for all children, and forbade the employment of children under 9.  Nine!!!!

The Factory Act of 1833 was the point where Government interference between masters and their employees became an established principle.  It was “the beginning of a vast code of laws which have been passed since then to protect the workers in the interest of the national welfare.”  (Page 807).  New Zealand was still a very very young country in 1833 – the Treaty between Maori and Queen Victoria was not signed until 1840.  We subsequently inherited our legal system from Westminster, and continue to fine tune it to our own needs.

I am reminded this week of health and safety because of an as-yet-to-be-clarified accident in Australia, which resulted in my sister-in-law’s sister-in-law’s body being returned in a coffin and her funeral is tomorrow.  Be interesting to find out at the appropriate time the exact nature of the accident.  My sympathy to her bereaved and no doubt shocked family.  I cannot help but wonder about the things that she has left behind that she was going to do.  Books to be returned to friends, cards to post, things ordered on Amazon yet to arrive, new summer clothes not yet worn – the stuff of daily life.   What would someone have to deal with should my own life be suddenly and unexpectedly terminated?  Must get on with the tidying up.

From the bus today I watched a Mum firstly adjust the pushchair so her child’s head was no longer in direct sun, then put some baby-sized sunglasses on the child.  And of course then take the photo on her cellphone.  But good for her – eyesight is precious.

It is time to cover up out in the garden.  Sunhat, sunglasses, suitably strong footwear.  My new favourite attire is old business shirts.  Perfect with light but long sleeves and a collar for the neck.  Get some from someone you know (in the interests of being gender and sexual orientation-neutral I cannot assume it is possible to “grab an old shirt from your husband”).  My must-have item is a good pair of gloves.  My number one tip – put on lashings of good hand cream before you put on the gloves.  I reckon it minimises the damage.

Meantime in my garden, the peas are surviving well, i.e. the eggshells in sufficient density really do deter slugs and snails, the leeks are going to seed but I will leave one or two as they are so attractive, and I have a whole brand new raised bed to play with.  Macrocarpa timber, so no poisonous timber treatment to leach into my carrots and tomatoes.  Came as a kitset in 4 pieces, complete with the necessary nails.  Easily assembled after the Quality Controller spent what felt like hours ensuring it was level (is it not going to settle??).  If you are interested in knowing where it came from, send me an email – there is a link on my website

Ready to go. Axe for levelling, level for checking. No job too small for a spirit level, it seems.

The boatman at Givernay. What??? No lifejacket? Boots and wet weather gear? If that boat goes over he is a goner; would not stand up to NZ H&S scrutiny. Unless that famous pond is actually quite shallow? Regardless it is very beautiful.





About Ngaire Wallen

Landscape designer, thinker, partner, mother, reader, wanna-be writer keen to inflict my thoughts on the world.
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