New Zealand hasn’t got a great workers’ health and safety record, just ask the forestry workers. But there are rules and regulations that likely keep many people safer, and an accident compensation system that can help out when things go bad.
Travelling overseas can challenge my Kiwi cautiousness when it comes to worker welfare. Sometimes I think I may assume too much in my ignorance – judging bamboo structures as less secure than metal scaffold is probably wrong. Seeing labourers without harnesses passing heavy materials from one level to the next, I may be right to think wtf?!
Leaving the Kunstkamera Museum in St Petersburg, Russia, at the weekend I witnessed the risk taken by a guy fixing an aluminium plate to the top of a pillar. He was wearing some safety gear like gloves and boots but with no ladder or workmate he balanced precariously across a row of metal spikes, one foot on a swinging gate. Now, I admit to having massive rescuer tendencies but on this occasion held back every instinct to help not wanting to give him a fright or distract him. The potential for impalement loomed large.
Ironic, I felt, that this guy was putting his life on the line for a bit of guttering while St Petersburg was in the throes of a preparing for its May 1 Labor Day celebration.