This month’s offering dear reader is about the unexpected activities revealed through the SUSA discussion process that I’ve been party to in the (distant) past and some that I’ve heard about from my colleagues.

The reasoning behind this is to remind my devoted readership about the importance of SUSA discussions and to perhaps dispel any complacency that may have crept in. It’s too easy sometimes to assume that “everything is OK out there” but in safety as we know you have to go looking for trouble.

“Steady as she goes Mr Lightoller…” “Aye aye Captain Smith aye aye.”

The cherry picker

A colleague was carrying out SUSA engagements on a cement works. He was perturbed to find two fitters working 15 feet up using unlashed ladders for access. After the preliminaries my friend asked what the worst injury could be. This was plainly getting killed by falling off the ladder.

How should the job be done? From a cherry picker they responded but the company would never pay for one. OK, responded my friend, God forbid but if one of you did fall and was killed what would happen then. “We’d be given a cherry picker” they said.

“You should see what I’m going to do now.”

A few of you may be aware that I used to run a small foundry. We used to make 330Kg billets of metal cast into graphite crucibles and the theory was that the crucible could be inverted with a hydraulic grab whereupon dear reader the billet would of course slide gracefully out onto the bench for cleaning.

Only they used to get stuck sometimes didn’t they? On the day in question I approached the guy on the billet cleaning station. He wasn’t wearing his glasses and actually held his hands up in surrender before I even spoke and promised to stop and get them – I lent him mine.

We did the whole worst accident thing and then he said “You should see what I’m going to do now.” “Show me” quoth I. The billet was stuck and the individual concerned partially inverted the crucible, jammed a crowbar between the billet and the crucible and began to swing on it, on the basis that he could get out of the way once the billet started moving.

“Guess what?” I said. “We aren’t going to do this in this way anymore.”

“I jump across this 3 ft gap, 20 feet up”

This one was a food factory in Germany, the guy involved was Turkish but his German was good and I had an interpreter. The point at issue was a bin full of powdered raw material, it was fitted with a level gauge but in the fashion of all solids in bins the material didn’t sit evenly but banked up on the interior walls of the bin.

“So how do you get an accurate level?” I asked. “I jump across this 3 ft gap, 20 feet up from the stairs to the top of the bin and look through the top hatch” he said grinning.

“Guess what?” I said.

The self-stabbing knife

A female worker in a food factory had to use a knife regularly to open bags of raw material. The knife in question was evidently a workshop fabricated number ground from a piece of steel bar and featured a finely crafted white tape handle. Legend has it that Jim Bowie’s famous knife was made from a blacksmith’s file by the way, but I digress. When not in use she kept the knife in her back pocket and yes she had stabbed herself lightly in the backside several times.

“Guess what?” I said.

“How do you know it won’t start while you are trying to unblock it?”

The next one was on a bagging machine. “How do you know it won’t start while you are trying to unblock it?” I asked. “That’s no problem” he replied “the guard is interlocked so if I open it limit switches stop the machine”.

“Why isn’t the guard sitting flush to the frame today?” I asked. “Oh dear the fitters have left the bypasses in place that they use to disable the limit switches when they set the machine up.”

“Keep ‘em peeled” as poor old Shaw Taylor used to say before he was consigned to the scrap heap of broadcasting by Crimewatch UK.