Your Safety Is Our Concern Essay

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page 12

“Safety” Prize Essay Competition
First Prize Essay

First Prize Essay

(By P. J. Raleigh, Guard, Greymouth.)

After a century of railway working all over the world, and despite the fact that we have almost said the last word in safety, both in protecting the millions who travel by train and the employees who work them, accidents still happen and sometimes with disastrous results. It is with a view to minimising them, so far as our own railways are concerned, that I would give a little sound advice to the younger members of the service, and I include all Departments, viz., Locomotive, Traffic and Maintenance.

From experience gained in the course of nearly twenty-five years in the Traffic Branch, I have come to the conclusion that it is the younger men of the service who really need advice on the question of safety.

There is an old saying “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” Take the locomotive Department first. If a knoek develops on an engine, the good old saying, “take no risk,” is at once apparent—you may come in contact with a bridge or other obstacle. Play safe, stop, and then look round for anything loose about the engine. The same remarks apply to the fireman. If he has to trim coal there is always the danger of striking an overhead bridge or telegraph wires crossing the line. Keep well down towards the front of the tender when engaged in this work. When an engine is slipping badly, and the sand pipes are blocked, great care requires to be exercised; if tapping pipes with hammer or other tools you are dangerously close to the motion, and a shattered arm is the result if you come into contact with same. Again I say, play safe, stop and adjust matters.

To my mind one of the most dangerous undertakings on our railways is performed by an employee who is called upon to run over any portion of the track with a velocipede or trolley. Here it is a question of being absolutely sure of your whereabouts and the time the train is due to pass, to say nothing of special trains. No chance must be taken here—it is all too perilous. Be certain your watch is correct time and that you have advice of specials running. Don't foolishly go ahead although you may be a little late, especially where curves or tunnels intervene. It is usually at curves where the long list of fatalities is added to. Again I say, “Don't risk it for the sake of a few minutes. It's not safe. Your life is worth more than a few minutes.”

A train speeding into the station at a fairly high rate of speed seems to have a fascination, and sometimes a fatal one, for the young and more athletic members of the staff, who, to save a walk of a few hundred yards, will deliberately risk their life by attempting to jump on the engine, wagons, or footboards of cars. They sometimes miss and—you know the result. This dangerous practice has unfortunately taken a heavy toll of members in the past. Think twice when you see a train running into the station and don't endanger your life in this way.

Sometimes work about the yard, such as cleaning points, etc., entails a member being engaged in close proximity to the rails. Always make it a practice to work at the side of the rails. You can do this work equally as well as by taking up a position in the centre of the track, and don't forget to keep a good lookout both in front and rear. Always keep in mind a rake of trucks or engine may come along.

When working in their repair siding or when circumstances arise where it is necessary to go under a car or wagon for any purpose, train examiners would be well advised to place (in addition to the discs put up to block the road) one or two detonators on the track a little distance from where their work is. Always remember, no shunter has an infallible memory. Protect yourself; it makes you doubly safe.

To all members I say never get into the bad habit of walking between buffers of wagons or cars at short distances apart. I think it is the worst fault any employee can have levelled against him. Far better to climb through wagons, if stationary, or walk around. You take a grave risk otherwise.

Never leave anything lying about between the paths where shunters have to run. There is a grave risk of serious accident to some member if you do. Gather up all tarpaulins and stanchions and put them clear.

To the younger members, providing they have had a little training and experience of shunting —and it is the practice now to bring them along gradually in the work—all I say is: keep cool and collected at all times. An excitable man in a shunting yard, be he stationmaster, foreman or shunter, is a menace to everyone working in conjunction with him. There is an old saying, “Shunters are born, not made.” This is true to a degree, but there is nothing to prevent the page 13 novice or timid youth from becoming expert if he will just keep cool and collected. No matter how thick the work is, don't rush about blindly. You get nothing done that way. If in doubt, stop all movements and think for a few seconds.

Both by day and night give all your signals clearly and distinctly. Keep the driver well in view.

Take a good hold when riding on wagons and always be prepared for a sudden stop. The reason for this is obvious in a shunting yard.

If a hook jams against a buffer, watch your hands and on no account attempt to meddle with it or a shattered hand may result. Play safe, stop and right matters.

Always be careful when cutting off loaded “Ub” wagons, as there is a lot of play between buffers on this class of wagon and a crushed thigh might result if rounding a curve at the time of kicking off.

No doubt a lot more could be written about working on railways, but 1,000 words is the limit. The whole position summed up is: Keep cool and don't attempt anything rash whilst moving vehicles. Always be sure to pin brakes down on wagons left in a siding. Watch the older hands going about among vehicles, coupling up and cutting off. They take no risks, why should you?

Again to the younger members I would say, “Read the little book, ‘Shunting Risks,’ and heed them, together with the few remarks I have added about safety generally, and I feel sure you will go through your railway career safely.”

Second Prize Essay

(By J. C. Batt, Engine Driver, Wanganui.)

“Accidents will happen,” is an old adage that applies to the outside staff engaged in railway work perhaps more than to any other occupation. There is little doubt but that a large number of accidents occur when the victim is endeavouring to go a little faster than usual. The railway service contains as near the 100 per cent, of triers as any other service, and members will speed up when the work gets behind. Each driver will run to time if it is reasonably possible to do so. The same applies to the guard and every member connected with train running. But the member who is nearest the danger zone at all times is the one engaged in shunting. When orders come thick and fast, and trains are getting away late, the work worries him and risks are inevitable. Why should a man worry about his work when he knows in his own mind that he is doing his best? The old system of punishment is partly to blame. It has created a feeling of fear. Many men have been punished when it would have been better for the service and the men concerned, if they had been given encouragement to do better. Members of the service have taken risks in an endeavour to avoid delays with the resultant correspondence and perhaps punishment. The new merit system will go a long way to remedy this. The member who has a run of bad luck—and most men have a bad run at times—will have a chance to make good and wipe off his demerit marks.

To reduce accidents to a minimum it is necessary that all members should have a thorough knowledge of the rule book. Knowledge gives confidence, and the rules and regulations have been drafted by practical railwaymen after many years of experience. Many members hold the opinion that the regulations exist solely to victimise the staff, but on closer acquaintance it will be found that they have been drawn up for the protection and safety of the staff as well as in the interest of the Department.

Officers placed in charge of men engaged in dangerous work should be efficient, firm and humane. Discipline is necessary, but that does not mean that complaints and grievances should be treated with indifference or contempt. Many will be found to be frivolous or impracticable. Some are genuine. A member of the service had occasion some years ago to complain about the long hours of duty. In the course of the interview he told his superior officer that if some alterations were not made the men would drop. The officer, one of the old school, dismissed the subject by saying, “Well, drop!” Later on the officer retired and the conditions were soon improved and made safer for the men.

Concentration on the job in hand is necessary if it is to be accomplished smartly and without risk. A member engaged in shunting should be sure that the men on the engine understand what he intends to do before slipping or tail-roping wagons. Just calling out is not sufficient, because, if the injector or pump is working it is difficult for them to hear.

To lay down a hard and fast rule for the prevention of accidents is a difficult matter, owing to the fact that the circumstances leading up to accidents vary according to the nature of the page 14 work performed. Vigilance and caution at all times is the price the railwayman must pay for his own safety and the safety of others.

A shunter will lose his hold on a wagon or his foot will slip when in the act of lifting a hook. He will, no doubt, be an efficient shunter in every way, but owing to rush of work his mind is crowded and he fails to concentrate on the job in hand. Accidents of this nature are not due to carelessness or indifference.

On the other hand there is the surfaceman, who, without carefully reading the train advices for the day and consulting his watch, hauls his velocipede on to the line and sets off along the length. He carries his life in his hand. The writer has on more than one occasion noticed a surfaceman, with his back to an approaching train, pulling along the line oblivious of the fact that he was in danger.

On one occasion by slowly reducing speed a train got within fifty yards of a velocipede before the surfaceman heard the whistle which had been blowing for about three hundred yards. There was a touch of humour in the way he scrambled off the velocipede, pale and speechless, and tumbled it off the line, because—having been seen in time—he was never in danger of being run down. Members of the service using velocipedes should know the instructions laid down for their safety and, when riding alone, should look behind frequently. Time is valuable in railway work, but not more so than human life and limb. The necessity of trains making time is uppermost in the minds of all members. What is required is that time and safety shall be so closely associated that in thinking of one the other will always be present. Perhaps it would be a good idea to alter the wording of Rule 5* to read: “The first and most important duty of every member is to provide for the safety of himself and the public”; and make it a slogan. It would impress on all members the necessity of thinking out safe methods and would develop the safety habit. Risky methods would in time be eliminated. Young hands joining the service would be trained by the example of those they were associated with and the service would be more efficient and safer for each member, his mates and the public.

—(Ed. “N.Z.R.M.”)

Third Prize Essay

(By A. P. Godber, Assistant Workshops Foreman, Hillside.)

The better title for this subject would be “Safety First, Last, and all the Time.” Considerations of safety have results affecting more than the member concerned. Lack of proper precautions may result not only in temporary or total incapacitation to the person concerned, but following in its train are: possible injury to fellow employees, loss of working values to the Department, and financial loss and anxiety to the relatives of the delinquent.

How necessary it is for care to be exercised in seeing that all is clear before moving wagons, the long list of employees crushed between vehicles bears ample testimony. Especially is this so at night. The clearness with which signals are given contributes, in no small degree, to the safety of shunters, and their assistants. Handhold before foothold should be the maxim of all whose duties need them to board moving vehicles.

After an engine has been standing for some time, or is in running shed under repair, before moving the reverse lever, make a point of seeing that no one is likely to get caught in the motion. Missing fingers point (?) to the wisdom of this.

When shunting about goods sheds and restricted situations, don't put your head out at the side unless certain you are clear of all obstructions.

Failure to place danger signals when working under vehicles is a frequent cause of accident. In the case of locomotives, give the “Don't Move” board a prominent place.

Walking in the centre of the track courts disaster. “Keep off the grass” is not applicable to the well kept roadbeds of the New Zealand Railways, but “Keep to the side” is good safe advice. On the velocipede take nothing for granted. Never let up on eternal vigilance. Make it a habit. Shovels left with the blade edge uppermost will trap the unwary. If unable to stand them upright, lay them down with blade or points (in case of forks) facing downwards.

Wheelbarrows and other impedimenta should never be left in passageways. If you have barked your shins against the handles at any time, you will understand why. In carrying a bar of material, elevate the front end as high page break

Waiho River and Gallery Valley (showing hotel), Southern Alps, South Island

page 16 as possible. The risk to anyone coming from a side passage will thereby be minimised.

How usual to see an employee go to an emery wheel, and jerk the belt on to the tight pulley with one movement! Perhaps the belt breaks, perhaps it does not. The risk is there all the same, and the need for “safety first.” It is a bad example to younger men. Because emery wheels are better made than formerly, is no reason to neglect a safety first habit, and grind on the side. Too large a gap between wheel and rest has often meant another kind of rest to the careless workman. Never clear the cuttings away from a moving tool, or job, with the finger. It is often painful. The homely grindstone has potentialities for harm if the tool to be ground is incorrectly used. There is a safe side for grinding. Do not poke the chisel at an upward angle, with the stone revolving towards the point; grinding from the back is safer.

When turning, machining, or chipping, guard against flying particles. Someone's eye or ear will run less risk of injury. Handhold before foothold is equally applicable when moving amongst belting or shafting. If both hands are needed to manipulate a belt, first secure your balance. Loose, or ragged clothing is a menace to “safety,” when amongst machinery. A stitch in time will save months in the hospital; perhaps a coffin. Using a file without a handle to smooth a revolving piece of work, may skewer the hand with the sharp unprotected fang. Always use a handle. “Stand from under” when a lift is in progress, tends to safety. A falling weight moves fast, and slings are uncertain contrivances. If you wish to know whether two holes are in line, use a podger, not your finger. The former is the more easily replaced. Avoid setscrews which stand out from

Locomotive Development In New Zealand
Fifty Years Of Progress
Modern “A” Class Locomotive. Old “A” Class Locomotive (1873)

shafting or revolving work. Broken wrists, or limbs take a while to heal. Ragged and rough edges on so-called finished work, can, and do, cut like a razor. Think of the other fellow.

Stop for a moment and think what you would do if your mate met with certain injuries, a broken leg, or a severed artery. First aid promptly rendered may be the difference between the doctor and the undertaker. First aid is first cousin to safety first.

Should you be working with molten lead, be sure there is no moisture in the cavity to be filled.

Goggles may not look pretty, but they save pretty eyes; whether from grit, or when working contiguous to a brilliant light, as at a moulder's cupola, or when performing acetone and electric welding. Remember, there are rays of light invisible to ordinary vision, but which are dangerous to eyesight. Suitable goggles protect against injury from this source.

A serious accident caused by neglect of “safety first” principles, reacts on the nerves of one's fellow workmates, and may contribute to further mishaps.

Let this thought be latent in your mind: “Are my actions, or operations, safe, either for myself, or others?”

Finally, exercise all care at all times, in all operations you may be engaged in. Let up for not one single moment. Enlarge the slogan of “Safety First” to “Safety First, Last, and all the Time.”

Health, strength, skill, “quick to act,” good eyesight and good hearing are the principal elements of the physical man on his positive side, while disease, weakness, clumsiness, awkwardness, laziness and poor eyesight constitute his major negative characteristics.

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Dorothy Creek, Lake Kanieri, Westland, South Island

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