Monday, 10 December 2007

Step 9: Take Health and Safety seriously

One of the areas where the influence of leadership by example is strongest is in Health and Safety. The construction industry used to accept that its workers would be injured or killed in the course of their work, and there are still issues to be addressed; hence the introduction of the Construction Skills Card Scheme.

Archaeologists tend to be lax about safety; partly this is an instinctive anti-establishment reaction, and partly it is a result of the history of archaeology. There was a time, not that long ago, when most excavations were on rural summer sites, where, once people had been told how to hold a spade, the most serious risks were alcoholic poisoning, STDs and scurvy from off-site activities.

Working alongside the redevelopment of a brownfield site isn't quite the same: once you have looked at the issues of chemical exposure, plant, groundwater, scaffolding, shoring, ladders, lighting, old services, sanitation, and security, maybe you can do some work if you have your PPE in place. In such a constrained environment, a team will take its lead from, well, its leader: if he/she obeys the restrictions, wears the clothes, insists on conformance, then they will do the same; if he/she only wears a hard hat when an inspection is due, so will they.

You might think that archaeologists who set such great store by being 'professional' would respect H&S as a matter of course; having a site team behaving like a rabble can hardly help their cause.

You might well think that.

Step 9: Do you take H&S seriously?

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