Jump Starting at Grootvlei

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean ‘jump starting Grootvlei Power Station’. 😆 Auke Maas, the SHE manager and his team are switched on. I mean jump starting my Harley Davidson motor bike at Grootvlei. Yes, a Harley Davidson, “nogal” (= “on top of it all”), with a reputation of being a super-reliable bike. But let me explain.

I was late for my meeting with Auke and his team  😐  and, in my haste, I forgot to switch off the Harley’s ignition. As a safety feature, the main light is always on when the ignition is switched on. So, when I left the meeting, I proudly started, er, rephrase, tried to start the bike, because Auke, Arno and Peter wanted to hear the engine. NOTHING. Not a click.  😳 The battery was DEAD.

There I stood, far from home and miles from a service station.

Fortunately, I had the support of the Grootvlei team and, with the help of Arno, who got some tools, we opened the battery compartment. In the meantime, Peter, the chief fire master, got the portable jump start unit from the fire station. In no time at all, the Harley was running, and I was on my way home.

A helping hand from the folks at Eskom Grootvlei

What are the safety lessons?

  1. Even when in a hurry, take the time to follow the correct procedures and do the right things, one step at a time (stop the engine, switch off the ignition and lock the helmet, panniers and bike.) Doing things in a hurry often leads to incidents = NEAR HITS.
  2. Be prepared. Have a set of tools in your vehicle for emergencies. A small fire extinguisher is a good idea too.
  3. Have a backup in place. The portable jump start unit is a brilliant idea for emergency vehicles. One cannot have an ambulance or fire engine not starting because the battery ran flat.
  4. Establish a root cause, even if it was a near hit with no injury or damage, and make the necessary change to avoid making the same mistake again. In my case, it required a behaviour change – I make it a habit now to switch off the ignition to stop the engine.

 Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,


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Working In The Bush

When working in remote areas, there is often a lack of facilities and technology. I sometimes have to present in a workshop or shed, with poor seating and layout, no lighting control and a “boeredag” sound system. This can be a real challenge, but it keeps it FUN and exciting for me. I got some good advice from a fellow speaker, Wolfgang Riebe, who said: “Do the best you can with what you have. Don’t make life difficult for the organisers. Your job is to show up and deliver a knock-out presentation”.

Like here, where I am presenting in a tractor shed on a farm.   

 I find what lacks in the form of facilities and equipment is more than compensated for by the people. The organisers and the audience are so grateful that I am there for them that they bend over backwards to help me. 

Give me these people any day, rather than an extravagant, high tech conference venue, where I am made to feel as though they are doing me, the speaker, a favour, by allowing me on their stage and giving me a lapel mike!


 Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,


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A New Safety Number


I have a new number: 6800

That is the number of people who were packed into the soccer field at Northam Platinum Mine for the safety day. Danny Gonzalves, the GM, called for a work stoppage so all employees could hear the “SAFETY FIRST at Northam” message. 

I have never felt so vulnerable. Not only was the venue and setup everything that, as a speaker, I do not like – out in the open in the heat of the sun, no projector and screen, a poor sound system and only a hand-held mike – but the audience was restless, having just listened to two union reps stoking the fire with political rhetoric and blaming. You see, Alfred Nkosivumile Hanisi had died in a fall-of-ground incident two weeks before.

However, it went very well. Each employee received one of my customised and Northam-branded key rings, with the message “Look out for each other“. The people remembered me and chanted my signature call YEBO BABA and CAPICHE. We sang my safety song “I have a dreamof ZERO HARM

It was an unforgettable experience … real gooseflesh stuff! I went home enriched and uplifted by the event, confident that my talk has made a lasting impact. 


 Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,


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Safety or the Money?

After some 15 years, we had to re-thatch the roof of our cottage, “Isidleke” (meaning “the nest” in Zulu).

There is something truly African about a thatched roof … the smell of the freshly cut grass, the natural yellow colour, as well as the rough, yet smooth, texture and a natural, but unholy mess of grass all over the show.

There is another aspect to thatching projects.

Although it requires a lot of skill to do a neat thatch, it is a low level skill and the profit margin is very tight. Hence, it is entrepreneurs with few resources who are in the thatching business. The bakkie used is often a clapped out “skedonks”, leaking oil onto the driveway, and don’t even get me started on the tools and equipment which are enough to send any safety professional into a flat spin. The safety standards are all but non-existent – working at heights without any safety harness and PPE – going against all safety rules.

Now, here is the dilemma.

If you, the average home owner, insist on safety harnesses, professional scaffolding with inspection certificates, full PPE and all the rest of the good safety procedures, you will not be able to get a contractor who will do this job at an affordable price. The result? Most will get the job done by a contractor who offers a reasonable price and good quality and simply hope for the best.

I have no actual figures, but, on researching this, found very few reports of “falling from heights” accidents in the informal sector, which surprised me.

It is tough to walk YOUR talk in SAFETY, if it touches YOUR purse, and this often holds true for most companies as well.

 Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,


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Walking the Circle of Safety


What is the Vehicular Circle of Safety?

Pretty much what it sounds like … circling your vehicle as a safety check before you drive it.

The ‘Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety’ website has a comprehensive checklist and a diagram of what to check for. Although it is directed at company vehicles, the Circle of Safety is definitely not limited to that – we all learnt about the circle check when we prepared for our driver licence tests. Ergo, this is something we should all be doing with our personal vehicles too!

Why do it?

Well, apart from the obvious, i.e. is the vehicle in a fit state to be on the road, doing this has the effect of increasing driver safety awareness. Some companies insist on the positioning of traffic cones around their vehicles so that drivers are ‘forced’ to ‘walk the circle’ as they remove the cones.


The example below is a VERY good reason for at least checking that there are no children or animals anywhere near your vehicle.

Source unknown, but thanks to Morkel for bringing it to my attention!

Some material worth looking at:

If you’re not already walking the Circle of Safety, why not start today? It’s the SMART thing to do.

 Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,


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“My Brothers’ Keeper”

Picture this.
A convoy of 47, lined up and ready to go.
Or better, hear the beat of the engines, as 47 Harley Davidson motor bikes rrrrroar down the open road.

This was the first pack ride for Heidi, my wife, and I.

What an awesome experience, riding with mature and responsible bikers. I felt comfortable and secure driving in the formation of a pack. There is safety in numbers. When the front riders see a danger on the road, like potholes, they alert all the other riders, by means of hand signals, to ‘watch out’, ‘slow down’, or some other precaution. This is truly ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ in action.

The ride kicked off with the road captain briefing everyone about the road conditions and some of the dangers to watch out for. As a newcomer to pack riding, I got a safety talk from Piet, who, by the way, is a Jumbo Jet pilot for SAA!

It was an absolute pleasure sharing a ride with like-minded, safety-conscious bikers. I love the self-discipline, attitude towards safe riding and the concern they show for each other, as well as the fellowship of the Harley riders.

I wish I could transfer this to some of my clients.

 Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,


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Speed Limit Syndrome

Picture this.I enter the premises of a big company.
There are road works ahead – barricades, detour markers, a speed limit sign … the works.

Nothing wrong with that.
EXCEPT, the sign reads 20 kph.
Now this is where the problem lies.

I pull aside and observe what happens.

The road is straight and clear and one vehicle after the other drives past me at 40 and even 60 kph, totally ignoring the speed limit of 20.

Why, you may ask, did these drivers not adhere to the 20 kph speed limit?

Because it is human nature to ignore rules and regulations (in this case speed limits and other traffic signs) that are judged to be unreasonable.

This is what I call the Speed Limit Syndrome and it happens alot on public roads too, as we all know.

One of the worst practices on our roads is that signs are not being immediately removed when the road works or the need for the sign no longer exists! This encourages a culture of not taking traffic signs, or, for that matter, rules and regulations, seriously, because they are deemed to be unreasonable and/or obsolete.

I urge you to watch out for this trap in your own operations.

Make sure that your rules and regulations are necessary, realistic and truly serve the purpose of safeguarding people. When people ignore your rules and regulations, first ask if they are not being perceived as unreasonable and, if so, why.

The flip side of this coin is equally important. Once you are 100% sure that your rules and regulations are necessary and realistic, then you have to enforce them – ruthlessly. You have to discipline those who ignore and break the rules and regulations!

Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,


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Safety in Action

I’ve said it before, and I’m going to keep saying it: I love it when I see safety in ACTION. To me the key to ACTION is *doing*, not talking-about-doing. Too many companies (i.e. people, because companies are made up of people doing things) take ages to make decisions and get into gear.

I recently had an experience with ESKOM Gauteng Operating Unit which set a new record for me. (Northam is now a close second). I got a call at 10h00 one morning to do a safety talk to new employees the next day. So, within 24 hours, I prepared and customised my talk for this particular audience and was on stage knocking-the-socks-off the new ESKOMITES.

I could not have done this without the most efficient and prompt help of some people from the Gauteng Operating unit. Just goes to show again, if you are SERIOUS about Safety, you do take ACTION !!!

 Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,


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A Safety Lesson in a Mud Trench

I sometimes have to go to places out in the sticks. Recently I went to the Assmang smelter in Machadodorp.

It was raining and on my way back to the Old Mill Hotel, disaster struck!  As I turned into the drive the front wheels disappeared into a muddy trench.

There I was, in pouring rain, wheels spinning, stuck and going nowhere. 

I did not know, nor see, that a trench, which had been dug to replace a water pipe, had not been compacted or covered. Alas for me, that was only done afterwards = too late for me!

The hotel staff saw my dilemma and, thanks to Harry and Thokozani, my car was rescued from the pit.

== The Safety Perspective ==

There were no warning signs or barriers.

== The Safety Lesson ==

Even at home, do the safe thing.

The consequences of not doing so can be much worse than what they were for me in this incident.

 Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,


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When Safety Is Top Priority

Picture it … Lots of windows. No curtains. No stage.

And there’s me – needing all that goes with a talk that relies on technology and people being able to see me and what’s being shown on the screen.

As it turned out, I had a very determined “crew” watching my back. Neither Aldo, nor anyone else in the team at Assmang Chrome, Machadodorp, was going to let any of this stop them from getting their message across that: 

So out came the black plastic, tape and pallet …  – and, no, it wasn’t a “Cinderella” transformation, but it was all we needed. I got my “dark room” and my stage, and (WOW!) a chair for my “boxer in the corner” MC intro. Even the power failure during one of the sessions didn’t dampen the spirits of the delegates.


When you’re serious about safety, you make any plan to speak to the troops and drum up support for safety. 


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