Image: @smharchives

Stunning Photo Shows How Far Workplace Safety Has Come In Australia

How times have changed...

Today, every single work environment needs to abide by various workplace health and safety laws, not only for employees but for customers, visitors and anyone else who steps foot on the business premises. Although, while it is the businesses’ and the owners’ obligation to instil workplace health and safety measures, it’s also down to the individual employees to follow them.

Each Australian state has its own workplace health and safety laws that businesses need to follow, so what might be an obligation in New South Wales, for example, may not necessarily be the case in South Australia.

But on the whole, what is incredibly apparent, is just how far workplace health and safety has come over the years in Australia, as one photo recently posted to The Sydney Morning Herald Archives Instagram account perfectly demonstrates.

The image in question shows Peter McCormack – referred to as a “dogman” – being lifted up over the streets of Sydney, as he works on the £2 million Royal Assurance Building on Bent Street, in 1959. It’s been difficult to discern what the Royal Assurance building is used for today if it indeed is still standing, as records regarding its presence in the Australian city are thin on the ground.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by @smharchives

Regardless, we’re not here for a history of Sydney’s architecture. What we’re interested in is the way in which Mr McCormack is being lifted high above Sydney’s streets.

Clearly long before the days of strict health and safety laws, Peter appears to only be connected to the crane’s chain attachment by way of standing on some hooks. He’s also holding on for dear life – although admittedly, he looks remarkably calm about the whole affair – on both the chain on the crane and a secondary rope.

You’ll also notice there isn’t a hard hat in sight, nor does he even seem to be wearing steel-toe capped boots. It beggars belief that a) this was the customary approach to scaling high-rise buildings and b) someone like Peter was even willing to be airlifted in such a manner.

These days, virtually every minute aspect of a construction site – or any business for that matter – falls under the scrutinous eye of health and safety law. Hell, you can’t even get up onto someone shoulders at a nightclub or festival without a member of security telling you to get down. The aforementioned hard hats and steel-toe cap boots at mandatory, as is high-visibility clothing, or PPE – Personal Protective Equipment – as it is more commonly known.

Harnesses are commonplace too, in the event someone should make a misstep or slip, to prevent them from plummeting to the ground far below. Of course, scaffolding has become just as common within city skylines as birds in the sky, allowing for much safer and easier travel up and down a building’s innards and facade.

Image: Financial Times

An image taken from the construction of the Crown Sydney casino in Barangaroo perfectly demonstrates the measures modern-day construction workers have to abide by during the building of high-rise buildings.

As technologies and building materials constantly evolve, and the imaginations of architects stretch further and further, we’ll no doubt continue to see countless changes made to workplace health and safety legislation. Who knows, one day we may end up comparing the image just above with the methods of a future time, noting drastic differences once again. 

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