Be proactive when managing safety

Recently, I had a business trip to Sydney and found myself passing time in the CBD at Martin Place, which was interesting as I watched foot traffic and work activity in the vicinity.  There was a combination of the general public going about their business in casual attire, other in corporate wear, other in suits, others in work related wear like barristers in their gowns, as well as workers in the high visibility wear and PPE.

In my experience, the CBD always seems to have some type of refurbishment or repair going on.  This day it was no different.  I guess it can be expected as the city is old and established, yet may require updates and repairs and the opportunities for the development of new modern buildings.

Besides, Martin Place is a pedestrian mall in the CBD, which has been described as the “civic heart” of Sydney. It is also home to the Reserve Bank, Commonwealth Bank, Macquarie Bank, Westpac and other corporations, the centre of business and finance, as well as media networks.

Safety observations

As I sat on the bench, I observed people enjoying the space, with one male who caught my attention as he was having lunch and was leaning casually on what was one of the large circular sand stone structure. This was one of many, strategically places in various parts of the area and complimenting the layout of the landscaped garden with the fountain and War Memorial. Later, I notice more upright dark erect poles alongside and either side the perimeters of the building and walkways.

A crane had arrived and was located on lower section, a distance from where I was seated.  I noted that the workers had erected temporary safety barriers around the machinery and workspace.  Along the walkways they had place ropes with what looked like red or orange flags.

I had mused as I surveyed the permanent structures, which were placed in such a way, as to manage and maximise safety. These ornamental structures were actually bollards, which were erected to prevent vehicles entering the space, where pedestrians would frequent throughout the day and congregate on special event like military events.  

Whilst the pedestrians might easily identify the temporary safety barriers that surrounded the crane and the walkway as safety measure, I wondered if they knew that the permanent ornamental structures were a safety barrier erected for their safety.

The Lindt Cafe

I then recalled the events of terrorism that took place in this vicinity some years ago.  I had written an article on this incident at the time and now I was actually at the place where it happened?  You might remember, this incident occurred on Monday, December 15, 2014, when a man named Haron Monis walked into the Lindt Cafe at Martin Place with a sawn-off shotgun and a sports bag, claiming he was wired with explosives. He took 18 people hostage, setting off an ordeal lasting 17 hours.  Sadly, two innocent people were killed and the gunman lay dead.

I wondered, had security been tightened before or prior to this incident. I remembered that there were other such incidents in Melbourne where pedestrians were mowed down in the CBD and ornamental bollard were later erected to protect the pedestrians and visitor to the CBD yet provide an artist appeal in the mall area.

The safety obligations of workplace

Generally, in most work spaces and public areas, the basic level of safety would be implemented as the risk that have been identified are controlled to prevent incidents and accidents to ensure safety compliance. This is the proactive approach. It is only when serious incident or accidents occur and through the investigative process other areas of high risk are identified, prompting additional safety measure to be implement to address the gaps. This is a reactive approach which is addressed after the fact.

In some cases, it is difficult to determine these gaps as unexpected events may create unsafe condition.  We call these unforeseen circumstances.

In this example at Martin Place. bollards were used to enhance the safety levels in the public space given the threat to public safety. Bollards are versatile and functional solution used to control or direct traffic, protect pedestrians and buildings, or secure an area. Their primary function is to provide safety and security through physical guidance and protection.

The importance of scheduled risk assessments

The time spent at Martin Place was interesting and highlighted the importance to re-enforced the need for workplaces to regular carry out risk assessment in their workplace and in situation where there are threats to the safety of their workers, premises, clients and visitors.

Hence; it is important to be proactive rather than reactive because:

  • By being proactive, helps in identify potential problems early and implementing steps to prevent them from occurring. This can save time, money, and resources, as well as reducing the likelihood of negative consequences.
  • Being proactive enables the gathering and analysis of information, make informed decisions, rather than reacting to a situation without proper preparation.
  • When proactive steps are taken to control a situation and shape the outcome, rather than being at the mercy of events.
  • Proactive planning and preparation can help to execute an effective response to an unexpected event and minimise the impact of potential risks or problems.
  • Being proactive and handling situations effectively can enhance the reputation, building trust and confidence in management’s ability to handle challenges and adversity.

Overall, this results in effective management and improved business performance and outcomes.