It’s Monday morning, you’re at work, doing a job at height, you get distracted by something, your mind is thinking about the great weekend you just had, but you just need to get that last plank … and then … you realize you are falling … Rhett Brown was doing a similar thing when he took his tumble - on a Monday morning, he was standing on two unsecured planks resting on deck framing, only 2.2 metres from the ground. What Rhett Brown realized at that moment was how unimportant it was to get to that plank, in the situation that he was in. If Rhett and other people on site had adhered to a better level of safety (the root cause of this accident) then he wouldn’t be falling and pretty soon landing on his head. If Rhett had been standing on proper scaffolding with correct edge protection, the distracting bit of building paper had been fixed down, well would this happened? Rhett does not believe so.
Rhett Brown worked as a hammer hand in the residential construction industry, had been building for 20 years. Rhett’s fall that day made him a tetraplegic for life and now Rhett is speaking out in a style that is making builders who are in the boots he used to be - stand up and listen. Rhett’s style is “straight to the point with a firm message, very honest and concerned about people, you have to feel for the guy he lost every thing but still continues to share his experience to prevent it happening to someone else” Allan Kendrick, Projects Safety Officer, Hawkins Construction.
And that is exactly what Rhett Brown has decided to do with his life from now on – prevent it happening to someone else. “We will never know how many accidents may be prevented from his talks. If he is able to prevent even one accident that could have put another person through what he has experienced then his talk is invaluable” Paul Feltham, Construction Manager, Brookfield Multiplex Constructions (NZ) Limited.The reason why Rhett is so effective is because he was one of them, and he discusses the simple facts that led to his accident: “talking to them rather than down at them, his lack of ‘Why me’ attitude made a lasting impact” Bruce Hodge, Health and Safety Officer, Hawkins Construction Ltd. Rhett highlights the importance of life and the small things we so easily take for granted.Rhett wants to talk to more people and he especially wants to help those in residential construction industry because that is the industry that let him down. He understands the unique pressures on the self-employed and small business owners and their workers in this industry. He knows that mostly residential construction workers are just trying to get on with it, and are working for clients who don’t care, or don’t know, to look for health and safety on site. But someone should be there to help them, to help themselves. There are great resources on offer for free, to help the residential construction industry and their businesses. A few simple systems that when implemented maintain a high level of hazard reporting, plant and equipment, and communication on site.
That is what safety is about, not heaps of paperwork and a pain in the arse – but having standards on site and systems there that work. Employers should expect employees to feel comfortable reporting something if it isn’t right ‘rather than just getting in it’. Once the basics are understood one realizes that it isn’t hard or expensive – it is actually just good business advice. Rhett’s talks made that safety statement clear and also made people remember why it’s even more important than just good business. Safety wasn’t there for Rhett, will it be there for you or your loved ones?