December means the end of another calendar year. That also normally means our industry is busy trying to deliver product to the building and construction sector as it strives to finish projects it has committed for completion before the Christmas close down.
The builders normally shut down for the two weeks for holidays, heavy transport grinds to a halt due to curfews around our capital cities and our industry tries to build a reasonable stockpile of materials so drill, blast and crushing can be wound back or stopped, allowing our employees to take time off.
At the same time we have the end of year dinners, the last minute arrangements, the gifts to pick up, those flat pack items that need assembly (with impossible instructions!) or our own holiday and travel plans. You also have to leave a skeleton crew to man the sales loader and weighbridge. It’s all a mad rush to the end and we wonder where that week we lost went to.
The accountants of our companies would be looking at holiday and long service leave that is overdue and asking staff to take them during the January period to reduce accrual. January is also the prime holiday time for us all to enjoy summer activities. So, for many of us, that will mean hitting the road to travel to our favourite spot – on roads choked with others all doing the same.
Meanwhile, our business needs to continue to run with reduced staff, people covering for roles, staff wishing they were also on leave and others returning after holidays but wishing they could have had that extra week off. So our “minds” may well be not back on the job.
It’s also a time when our plant and mobile equipment may undergo major maintenance, rebuilds or revamps, so we have a bunch of contractors crawling all over our site, with a target completion date that could well slip.
We have just created the classic safety pyramid, where if all things line up, an incident or accident can occur to ourselves at work or at play, or to our workmates. We have to remain vigilant and alert to any shortcut or lack of procedure. No job, no matter how urgent, is justified if safety is not forefront of mind. It’s up to all of us to drive that safety message even harder during this period; preventing one minor incident or near miss may well stop the planets aligning and that major accident occurring.
Australia is a multicultural country, so the ways we celebrate this time of year may be very different. It’s also a time when we may reflect on a relative, friend or workmate who has recently passed away and who cannot join us in the celebrations.
To all IQA members and friends, thank you for your support in 2014. It’s the members and branches that drive this Institute, ably assisted by Paul Sutton and our national office team.
We look forward to kicking off the new IQA year in early 2015. My wife Sue and I wish you and your families a very merry Christmas and a safe and happy new year.