• Peter Bateman
    In the July/Aug edition of Safeguard magazine we pose three questions based on stories in the magazine. One of them is this:

    Anitelu Paseka still blames himself for being injured, even though he knows the machine he was using should have been guarded.
    From your own experience, briefly describe an incident where a worker has blamed themselves despite evidence to the contrary.

    Feel free to respond here on the Forum, or privately here via a Survey Monkey form.

    An edited selection of responses will be published in the Sept/Oct edition, but with no names attached. One randomly selected person will receive a prize, namely a copy of the book Understanding Mental Models, by HOP expert Rob Fisher.
  • Chris Alderson
    Hi Peter, bit of a long story but one that should be shared. Nearly 12 months ago my oldest son was badly injured in a workplace accident. He was 21 at the time and was injured by having concentrated caustic soda coming into contact with his calf. This caused a third degree burn, 12 days in Middlemore burns unit with skin grafts, three months off work and then ultimately causing him to leave the industry because he could no longer do the job he had trained for.

    There was certainly a large element of him blaming himself for the injury and being fearful that he was causing problems for his employer. Basically his response was to want to just quietly get on with his life in another form.

    Certainly very frustrating for his parents given the fact that his employer displayed no care for him when or after he was injured, he ended up on the day hosing himself down with water (rather than any neutralisng agent) having to drive himself (with their knowledge) from north Auckland to Middlemore - all the time with the chemical oxidising on his leg. The subsequent response from Worksafe was extremely poor with only a phone call to himself and his employer as part of their investigation which was then put in the "dealt with" basket. The employer didn't even visit him in hospital or at home afterwards and didn't find it in their heart to top up their minimum wage worker for the 80% ACC accident cover while he was away. All the costs of this have been born by the worker, his family and the NZ taxpayer through ACC. The employer has had zero cost impact and was not taken to task for their very clear deficiencies leading up to and post the event.

    The employer in my view fell well short of its HSWA duties (as did the regulator) in every respect and still to this day I would think is allowing its workers to walk around wet stairs and surfaces carrying concentrated caustic soda in open containers.

    Workers, and in particular young ones have no agency and little advocacy in these types of situation and are not supported by a failed system. Despite myself, a seasoned health and safety professional, talking to him about his rights and that there would be no possible comeback on him personally, there was still a tangible fear of having to go through a process where his employer could be found wanting - and what this would mean for him in a tight knit and small industry.
  • Andrew
    Blame is not a binary choice.

    There are always many element to what caused an injury. And each person who played a part in any shortcomings should take responsibility for the part they played in it.

    Until people accept what they did was wrong they can't atone - which is all about putting things right.
  • MattD2
    I wuld bet a large sum of money that a large part of your son's previous employer's H&S management strategey was some sort of "look after your workmates" and/or "see something / say something" program / messaging.
    It is no surprise that when these types of programs are in place (as they are with a lot of companies both large and small) that workers blame themselves when they or a workmate gets injured. And my pessimistic side goes further to say this is a feature of the system and not a bug...
  • Chris Alderson
    I would have to take your money because from my discussions with them there was no apparent H&S strategy or system at all.
  • MattD2
    I would have to take your money because from my discussions with them there was no apparent H&S strategy or system at all.Chris Alderson
    damn didn't anticipate that loophole... although that is none that was explicit, I would counter that this type of messaging was likely still in place implicitly that "you should have told us if it was so dangerous" / "how are we supposed to know that was a risk if you didn't say anything"

    I would expect thats how the conversation went with WorkSafe as well - "well we have never had any issues like this regarding that job in the past, and none of the workers including the one that got injured said that it was dangerous, so it was an unforeseen risk but now we know we'll do something about it ok".
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