The construction industry has been plagued by injury and death in the workplace ever since ancient Egyptians (with the help of Aliens of course) constructed the Great Pyramids of Giza. Leading up to the 21st century, such tragedy was mostly dismissed as an unavoidable consequence. Sad and disruptive to the families of those affected but inevitable. With great progress came great sacrifice.
Nearing the end of the 20th century, seeking out the responsible culprits of neglect who caused such harm became common place. If an accident occurred, now there would be action. Compensation for the victim and punitive measures for the guilty. With so much money now involved, surely a regulatory body would be needed. OH & fucking S to the rescue!
Training for the blue collar men and women who sought career in the construction industry, small scale and large, is now common place. Identifying hazards and incident reporting is as familiar to the work-site employees as meat pies and sugary beverages. The workplace is safer and everybody is happier for it…. well not quite everyone.
Recently I was privileged to participate in a whole day of training. This course was for attaining a forklift license. A most complex machine which holds a dormant potential to wipe out the lives of the operators and surrounding workers when misused. Well, that’s what it felt like. The truth is I could teach a five year old the basics faster than they could learn the five proceeding letters from a, b and c.
Yes there is a potential dangers associated. But an eight hour intensive course including approximately 412 pages of theory and standardised testing seemed a bit unnecessary. Scratch that, it was fucking ridiculous. My chest tightened when asked by the trainer “why did you write down in your test, the health of the driver as being a potential hazard?” I remarked calmly that if the driver was fatigued, irritable or even sick, surely it could affect his/her concentration. Unfortunately critical thinking is not encouraged and with a shake of the head, I was guided by the trainer to fill out the correct answer. OH and WTF mate!
Myself and the lads who participated alongside all endured the testing with patience and dignity. Just kidding. Watching grown men fill in answers to 150 versions of the same question “why is it important not to be a fucking idiot when you drive a forklift?” was embarrassing. But wait… there’s more.
Once you attain the status of ‘competent’ it’s off to the post office with your required identification, including but not limited to a photo I.d., bank card, urine sample, DNA swab and the midwife who delivered you in hospital. I was just lucky that Gladys was available that day. Pay a bunch of money and congratulations. You’re a grown man now and can get back to work.
Though I experienced great frustration during this process I must declare sincerely that I am grateful for working in a country where making the workplace safe is taken seriously. I am grateful that working in the 21st century in these testosterone loaded environments, I can say without too much fear of bullying that “no, this feels unsafe, I will not continue”. These two elements alone indicate that progress is indeed a blessing. However….
As there was no mention of blood alcohol limits, I now begin each Monday morning with a few hits of the crack pipe washed down with some breakfast scotch (to take the edge off) before I operate the forklift. On Tuesday I try and accomplish the days forklifting tasks while wearing flippers (I am getting quite good at this). The rest of the time I abide by the 4,215 suggested regulatory practises for operations. Peace Blankers!