• Sheri Greenwell
    116
    This week's White Island eruption event is a tragedy on so many levels, and as Jacinda Adern has said, we first need to attend to the people directly involved and their families and loved ones. My heart goes out to those who lost their lives and the many whose lives still hang in the balance, as well as those for whom the close call and rescue efforts will be a haunting memory likely to stir up a much deeper well of emotion for many years to come.

    I hope once the clouds of ash and toxic gases have ceased their angry outbursts that NZ will leverage the experience in constructive ways such as opening more constructive conversations about the truth about the concept of RISK (the only time there is any genuine certainty is AFTER the event!) as well as digging more deeply into areas such as responsibility and accountability. Just like the concept of overlapping PCBUs, just about everything in life has a degree of overlapping responsibilities, and the only way to sensibly manage risk is for each individual to really understand and accept their individual scope of responsibilities. We also need to learn how to communicate responsibly within this context.

    While there is nothing on earth that would stop a volcanic eruption, and it is true that tourists have been visiting the island for many years, that tour operators would stand to lose money if tours didn't run, the relevant government advisory agency provided status information that was not accompanied by advisory instructions (so may have been ambiguous or understated), and many tour operators relied heavily on signed disclaimer statements to cover responsibilities regarding risk, without necessarily engaging in meaningful risk management processes.

    I hope that NZ will resist the urge to simply enact politically-pressured and expedient legislation that slides off surface issues and misses the opportunity to dig in a bit deeper, not only to understand the many factors and context of this very sad event, but also to dig deeply enough to understand underlying contributing factors such as values, economics and other perfectly normal human parameters that played a part in this.

    Relevant article from Stuff:
    https://i.stuff.co.nz/business/118085368/whakaariwhite-island-tour-operators-cant-waiver-their-way-out-of-safety-obligations?cid=app-android
  • Rachael
    30
    I'm an entirely logical and sensible rock nut who loves the whole geology of walking through volcanic areas, so find this situation with White Island (and by default any active volcano including Tongariro and Ruapehu) really conflicting...

    Is there a risk that the volcano will blow? Always

    Would I take a tour into the volcano? (or do the crossing/crater walk in the case of the others)
    Yes, and have done because as part of my decision-making process I'm trusting that the guides/gatekeepers have all the information and skills they need to make an informed decision about the risk to me on the day and time I am there.

    In this case I'm also prepared to roll the dice that the once-in-a-thousand day/month/year eruption won't happen during my once-in-a-blue-moon excursion on the exact day and time I'm there. If it does, well, I am comfortable with my decision and let the cards fall where they may. After all, we live on a country that is one of the thinnest parts of the Earths crust.

    Then I was asked "Would I take my kids?"
    Prior to Monday, Without a doubt.

    Now I don't know, Monday was a reality check of devastating proportions. Not because the mountain did anything wrong but because this area is exceptionally volatile and we rely heavily on the knowledge, communication and motivations of the experts around us.

    Something about some of the reported stories reminds me of the failures that led to the Mangatepopo canyoning event. I hope I'm wrong.

    Like I said, still conflicted, and very, very interested in seeing the progression of the investigation into this one.

    My ultimate hope is that while we still find it acceptable to allow 5-year-olds to walk 5 hours across an active volcano in jandals and 30 degree heat, sanity and commonsense will prevail when it comes to our continued access to these unique areas.

    However I suspect Whaakari might be in the naughty corner for a few decades.
  • Steve Setterfield
    6
    I agree with Rachael, if its there and there is an element of danger then I'm in the queue. But Whaakari is a living, unpredictable danger and controlling the awesome power of mother nature is not possible. And, as safety professionals, we all know that the last line of defense is PPE.
    If you jump from the Skytower you have to wear overalls, swim with sharks a shark proof cage, climb mountains have ropes,carabiners and a hard hat, etc. etc. but these visitors walked to the edge of an active volcano in t-shirts, shorts and jandels - not a hint of personal protective equipment.
    Fire proof overalls, stout walking boots, hard hat and face shields may well have reduced the injuries and possibly saved some lives.
    In my opinion stopping the tours is not an option (although it may be one the government attempts to enforce upon us) but the control of the risks by the official/licensed tour companies should be by "appropriate and used PPE" and not just a signature on an insurance waiver.
    The loss of life this week is sad and tragic, and I offer my condolences to those affected, wishing a speedy and full recovery to the injured.
    Finally, lets get the recovery done. Somebody make a meaningful decision rather than a committee that continually hedges its bets. Please.
  • Andrew
    196
    Steve
    A video has been released of visitor walking about an hour before the eruption. They are wearing respirators, hard hats and boots.

    I'll be deferring any further comment until more facts are known. 86tq3i84c9dzylhy.jpg
  • Steve Setterfield
    6
    Hi Andrew, I hadn't seen this particular video and fair comment but not all are wearing RPE and those t-shirts don't appear to offer much in the way of protection.
    This will be a discussion that rattles on for a very long time, lets hope that the recovery is much sooner.
  • Tony Donahoe
    6
    I hope that NZ will resist the urge to simply enact politically-pressured and expedient legislation that slides off surface issues and misses the opportunity to dig in a bit deeper, not only to understand the many factors and context of this very sad event, but also to dig deeply enough to understand underlying contributing factors such as values, economics and other perfectly normal human parameters that played a part in this.Sheri Greenwell

    A very pertinent comment Sheri.

    And when it come to deep seated understanding, this also should be considered.... from the NZ Herald:

    "Last year, the Whakatane business was named New Zealand's Safest Place to Work in the Small Business category of one group of workplace safety awards."
  • Wayne Nicholl
    14
    all good points - I will be very interested to see what sort of knee jerk reaction NZ takes. There is one other point that I want to throw in the pot - and this is not intended to stir things - but ....
    I was quite embarrassed to say I am a safety professional after watching the interview with the chopper pilot that was not allowed to go back and get the bodies because of safety reasons. This is a guy who had just left the island with a load of survivors, knew the landscape, knew the risks, was experienced - yet someone remotely was doing their own risk assessment and they get to make the final call. This to me is a group of well meaning people that use case studies and data they have - but do not have the 'feel' of the individuality of this event. I get the whole thing of rescuers being exposed to undue risk - but really. Some recent events in NZ have created a lot of change - but not all of it has been good - and our stats support that. Surely a plan could of been made with those closest to the site, a risk assessment made, people kitted up with good PPE, and those bodies brought home to their families before the environment decays the bodies any more. This rescue stinks of the same mistakes from Pike River in my mind
  • Sheri Greenwell
    116
    Some more relevant stories about this event (keeping in mind that everyone is now likely to either be in the camp of '20/20 hindsight' or throwing up their hands in exasperation over a force of nature they could not be expected to control).......

    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/index.cfm?objectid=12292857&ref=twitter

    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/index.cfm?objectid=12293369&ref=twitter

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/118098320/whakaari-white-island-three-helicopter-companies-all-unregistered-for-adventure-activities
  • Sheri Greenwell
    116
    "If you don't take a risk you don't get anywhere." - pilot Mark Law on making recovery flights

    Recovery plan under way as volcanic ash threatens to entomb bodies on Whakaari/White Island
    https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/118138376/recovery-plan-underway-as-volcanic-ash-threatens-to-entomb-bodies-on-whakaariwhite-island?rm=m
  • Sheri Greenwell
    116
    "In the fullness of time I believe we'll get some direction as to where we will go as operators and individuals, but right now, our thoughts are in other places." - Tim Barrow, Volcanic Air Safari director and chief pilot

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/118111491/multiple-casualties-multiple-victims-man-who-flew-last-survivor-off-whakaariwhite-island-speaks?rm=a
  • Aaron Marshall
    29

    A couple of counter-points to your position:
    The acceptable risk level depends entirely on the context of hte operation. If hte goal is to save/preserve human life, then the acceptable level of risk is far different from the acceptable level of risk for body recovery. Fire service make this distinction very clearly. I have been informed during a walk-through that they wouldn't enter the building unless there was human life at risk.
    Someone who is in the midst of an adrenaline-haze may not be clear-headed enough to make a rational decision.

    We seem to expect the pilot to be bale to make the informed decision to accept the risk, but all other areas of H&S we don't want people to have that choice.
  • Scott Williams
    7

    I agree, I hope we do have a longer look at the issues here, from all stand points.
  • Scott Williams
    7
    In addition to the comments above; this is a discussion that has conflicting issues that are exceptionally hard to reconcile.
    The issue of conflicting ideologies always irked me, and The Project had a great example: One of the helicopter pilots did an interview with Paddy Gower on The Project. During the conversation, he was clearly disappointed that additional rescues had not been attempted. And I understand that sentiment. The conflict is him implying that being on the island several times a day made him an expert on when that island was safe. Clearly, this is not a definitive statement; at the time of the interview, we had five confirmed dead. Before the deaths, maybe you can say these things, but after the deaths, at least have the common decency to reflect that you may have been wrong, the industry may have been wrong, the government may have been wrong.
    This conflict (or a version of this conflict) happens all the time, and people just start yelling (talkback radio went off that next day with conflict and belligerence).
    Why can't we as humans just stop and say "I may have been wrong, let's talk about his and see if we can make improvements."
  • Sheri Greenwell
    116
    Well said, and definitely if our minds and ears are closed from the start, our opportunity to learn and improve will be limited.

    With such a significant event and under worldwide media scrutiny, I can well imagine that there will be a lot of people aiming to deflect any possibilities of being blamed, but defensiveness right now would be such a barrier to really understanding and learning how best to minimize the impact, and potentially for tour operators to be able to resume tours more safely.
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