One of the clients I do work for has a range of semi-industrial sites. As is good practice, they encourage a high safety culture and, for consistency, this extends to the office environment, looking to reduce the trips, slips and falls, etc.
Meetings open with a “safety moment”, where staff are asked to bring a suggestion or observation which will reduce risk of injuries.
All good stuff and very similar to good practice I’ve witnessed elsewhere.
Last week I attended a series of meetings and I made a contribution to the “safety moment” in one of them.
My point was this; the national security rating has just been lifted from medium to high. Australia has a four level system, the UK uses five.
Both the UK and Australia have moved to the level where terrorist attacks are deemed to be imminent. In these situations, public vigilance is key; we all need to be aware of situations which seem suspicious, look out for unattended luggage, etc.
If you see something, say something.
The reaction from my colleagues was interesting to say the least; none of the usual discussion around the safety topic occurred and, in fact, the subject was quickly changed to a recent incident with an overheating toaster in the staff kitchen.
This confused me for a while, irked me somewhat, in fact.
After a some contemplation, I realised the reason of my irritation.
My career has included time in London during the height of the IRA mainland campaign; I had near misses with both of the two big city of London bombs and the Canary Wharf bomb. For example, I’d been drunkenly staggering along St. Mary’s Axe just before 9pm on April 10th 1992. If I’d had stayed for one more pint you wouldn’t now be reading this blog. As it was, I heard the boom from the District Line.
Back in those days before mobile phones, on several occasions I arrived at my desk in the morning to a ringing phone; my mother would be on the other end asking if I was OK because she’d heard of another London incident on the national radio. I’d laugh it off; “Mum, there’s 6 million of us working in Central London right now, I’ve got more chance of winning the Ladbrokes Pools than being blown up by a bunch of left-footed bogtrotters“.
Later, when the IRA threat had declined, if I hadn’t chosen to cycle to work on 7/7/05, I would have been travelling through Aldgate Station sometime close to that of the suicide bomb attack. A few months previously, the number 30 bus had formed part of my commute to another office.
What am I trying to say here, that I have a charmed life, someone is looking over me? Nah, thousands of people “nearly” got hit by these events, many of my friends have similar near miss stories.
The message I’m trying to get across, and was trying to in the office last week, was that we live in a safe environment….. until we don’t.
There’s a level of diligence and awareness that Londoners have that’s shared by the locals of very few other global metropolitan areas. Tel Aviv, Belfast, Colombo, etc.
But not a single Australian city.
Take the tube for a couple stops in London and leave your back pack unattended for a moment and observe what happens. There will be nervous looks and glances, some people might get off at the next stop despite it not being the one at which they planned to depart. Almost certainly though, someone will eventually point to the backpack and say loudly “whose bag is that?“.
Now do the same thing on the Sydney train network. You’re more at risk of having the bag stolen.
In fact, it would be a fascinating statistical study to run on the transport systems of different global cities to answer the question; what’s the average journey time that an unattended bag will travel before being stolen or challenged?
Until recently, one could board a domestic flight in Australia without showing any form of identification. A home-printed boarding card is all you’d be asked to show. This might have changed now, but I’ve not flown domestically recently so can’t confirm.
So, here’s the The New Australian “safety moment”, for those willing to listen;
1. Be aware of your surroundings.
2. Challenge and report suspicious circumstances.
3. Give your office landline number to your loved ones. Why? Because in the event of a terrorist attack the security forces will cut the mobile network (mobile phones can be used as remote bomb triggers) and, even if they don’t, the networks will not cope with the capacity demand.
4. Treat the political ramblings of left-wing media trying to conflate the alert status with obfuscation around budget deficits with the contempt they deserve.
5. Don’t be concerned; if your number’s up, it’s up. Hedge your bets and buy a Lotto ticket.