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A cleaner has featured prominently in the press this week for all the wrong reasons... 36-year-old Natalia Nemets, who lived in Russia, was cleaning a tank at the Slavyanka confectionary factory, when for some reason or other it suddenly filled with molten caramel, which is said to have boiled her alive.
Of course, there are many deaths of cleaners that don't make the news... I often receive information on cleaners - mainly in Asia, who die in the course of their work. Generally this involves tank cleaning of some sort and most of the time it's where the cleaners have been overcome by fumes. Often this type of accident involves multiple deaths because the workmates of those who've lost consciousness, rush inside to drag them to safety, only to be overcome by the same fumes themselves.
The reports into Natalia's death say that while her workmates rushed to help, they were unable to save her. It's very sad when people die whilst carrying out their work and I've acknowledged in these leaders before that many of us will take calculated risks in an attempt to make the job easier and get it done more quickly. I regularly overstretch myself on ladders, for example, rather than going to the effort of climbing down and moving the ladder nearer to where I'm working.
We're effectively - without even realising it - making a rapid risk assessment and deciding that the odds are in our favour. It's something we learn to do from a very young age and it becomes second nature; for example, when we cross a road or pull out from a junction in our cars, we first carry out a simple risk assessment, don't we?
When it comes to assessing the risks our actions are creating for others, it's a whole different matter though. I know many of us grumble about or poke fun at what may seem 'over the top' health & safety legislation in our countries, but when you consider what's at stake, perhaps it's not a bad thing to be zealous when it comes to assessing risk, and taking the safer route rather than deciding to cut corners. Perhaps many of us don't realise quite how lucky we are to work in countries or for organisations that consider workplace health & safety to be crucial, rather than a nuisance...
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26th October 2017