Sorry could you say that again


Apropos of banning smoking in prisons as a health measure for staff, how long is it going to take before someone works out that bar and restaurant staff are exposed to unacceptable levels of noise?

If any of our employees are working with tractors, chain saws or anything else which makes a loud noise we’re required to provide ear protection for them.

If we didn’t OSH would be down on us. But music in bars is often far louder than farm machinery yet staff there have no protection at all.

Even without music, noise levels in some bars, restaurants and cafes are often well above comfort level thanks to modern architecture and design which likes hard surfaces and spurns the soft furnishings which help to absorb some of the sounds.

It can’t be good for the staff’s hearing and it’s not ideal for patrons either.

There’s a limit to how many times you can say, sorry, could you say that again.  After a while I resort to  smiling and nodding over dinner and hoping that’s an appropriate response to a conversation not clearly heard  because the background noise drowns out what’s being said.

Fencing us in


Palmerston North coroner Tim Scott has called for farmers and the Labour Department to lobby government to make fencing compulsory for all farm houses.

Mr Scott said sharemilking agreements should make it mandatory for houses occupied by sharemilkers and their families to be adequately fenced.

He wanted his decision referred to the Labour Department’s Occupational Health and Safety Unit, Federated Farmers, and an appropriate farm worker union, the Dominion Post reported.

Legislation would be needed to make fencing mandatory.

Mr Scott said the legislation could be similar to the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act, which promotes child safety by requiring the fencing of some pools.

This follows the death of a three year old who died after she and her brother fell into an effluent pond about 75 metres from their house. The house wasn’t fenced, there was a stock fence between the house and the pond.

The children’s parents, who were sharemilkers, had asked the farm owner to fence the house. He had bought fencing materials but asked the child’s father to wait until the section was levelled before building the fence.

This is a tragedy made worse because of the if onlys:  if only the fence had been built, if only the pond had been fenced, if only the children hadn’t been playing outside . . .

The coroner is quite clear in his findings that the parents were not to blame.

The sharemilking agreement had a clause which said the property would be fenced but it was in the fine print of a standard contract – 119 of 161 clauses on 37 pages.

He recommends that share milking agreements make it mandatory for all houses occupied by sharemilkers and their families be adequately fenced and that this clause be highlighted.

He goes on to recommend that all farm houses should be securely fenced.

But how practical is that and if farm hosues are to be childproof why not every home?

Farms are full of dangers but is an effluent pond nearly 100 metres from a house in the country any more dangerous than a busy road right outside one in town?

And how do you make a whole property completely childproof?

Friends had a deer fence round their house and the children learned to climb it. Other friends had their gate fastened so securely that visiting adults couldn’t get in but their three year old son managed to get out.

Where there’s smoke . . .


. . . there’s smokers and it seems to me the study which found children whose parents smoke are more likely to take up the habit than the off-spring of non-smokers is stating the obvious.

The Harvard University study published in the American journal Paediatrics found that teenagers are three-times more likely to start smoking if their parents do.

“It’s telling them that smoking is a fairly normal thing to do, it gives them the impression that it’s quite acceptable,” says ASH’s Ben Youdan.

Not only normal, is it possible they’re also deseniitised to the smoke and smell so it doesn’t seem as unpleasant to them as it does to children who grow up in non-smoking households?

Alhtough it was common for people to smoke not only in their own homes but in other people’s when I was a kid neither of my parents smoked and I always hated the smell of cigarette smoke so much I can put my hand on my heart and say I’ve never, ever had even a puff.

I do have other vices but the whole idea of sticking something that smelt so revolting into my mouth and breathing in has simply never appealed.

Because of that I’m pleased it’s not just illegal to smoke in enclosed public spaces it’s also socially unacceptable to do so in most private ones too and I’ll give the credit for that to the previous government.

I never saw this particular legislation as an example of the nanny-state. It’s more an OSH requirement to protect bar staff and patrons not very different from ensuring farm workers who deal with sprays aren’t exposed to any drift.

I didn’t quite hear that part II


People who spend a lot of time listening to loud music  risk permanent damage to their ears according to Dr David McBride, senior lecturer in occupational health at the Dunedin School of Medicine.

People listening to music on headphones should have them on half volume and those going into nightclubs should consider wearing earplugs.

“Any time you have to shout at a person an arm’s length away to be heard means you are in an environment that is too loud and you’re damaging your hearing.”

And what about the workers? If any of our staff is working with a fraction of the noise you get in many bars, cafes, restautants and nightclubs we’d have to supply them with ear muffs.

Does OSH not have anything to say about these noisy workplaces? And are there no requirements to protect the ears of the patrons?

Cigarette smoke was an OSH issue and, while cautious about the state interfering in private lives and businesses, I think noise should be too.

I am sick of evenings spent attempting to take part in conversations where no-one can hear properly even though everyone’s shouting.

Many’s the time I’ve just grinned and nodded, hoping desperately that was the appropriate response to what I was only half-hearing; many’s the time a quiet conversation has been ruined by loud music; and many’s the time an evening has finished very shortly after the band starts playing.

I don’t go into shops which play loud music and if I have a choice I leave social venues when loud music starts.

Modern building design and decor with lots of hard services and few if any soft furnishings to muffle the noise make matters worse.

But the root of the problem lies in the volume and therefore the solution is simple: PLEASE TURN IT DOWN – IT DOESN”T HAVE TO BE THAT LOUD.


(Part 1 of this post is here.)

%d bloggers like this: