journal, university

Dangers but as dry as bones

Once upon a time there was a fictional archaeologist who we shall call Drew. He didn’t follow any safety guidances and shimmied down a narrow hole to find a Lost Artefact. It was a pit of snakes and they all bit his un-gloved hands before 6m of soil collapsed in on him.

The end!

We’ve come to an extremely important point, and I have been pondering…

Why is learning about Work Health and Safety (Occupational Health and Safety in some parts) often so dull?

It’s as if everybody collectively agreed that, because the consequences of screwing up WHS can mean injury or death, the information must be delivered in a serious(ly dry) manner, like pages of legislation to read.

Or, because WHS is necessary instruction in hazardous work sites, we can economise on ways to keep it interesting, because people have to engage with it anyway.


Couldn’t it be the other way round?

If we have to engage in learning something, we should invest more effort in keeping it engaging, so that newcomers to learning about hazards place extra value on care and keeping on top of, you know, not accidentally swallowing mercury, or falling 8m off a cliff.

I’m not saying we should clown around with this info, but to spice it up just a little.

Surely it can be interesting! Here are some possible safety nightmares for diggers, just off the top of my head:

• being buried alive • mosquito bites • dengue fever • malaria • Japanese encephalitis • crocodile attacks • snake bites • scorpion bites • mercury exposure • lead exposure • asbestos exposure • heat stroke • hypothermia • viral infections from wild animals eg bats • injury from a trowel • chased by monkeys • chased by boars • dehydration • falling • poisonous plants • tetanus from rusty nails…

A quiz, perhaps? Get everyone to brainstorm what they think can go wrong at the beginning of a project, then gather and see what people may have missed before moving forward.

As a paper-pusher just starting to learn about how people find themselves in hazardous situations, I don’t have a good solution yet re: a wildly exciting delivery of safety measures.

I imagine the most stimulating way to drive home* what some dangers of Archaeology are is via Virtual Reality, which just isn’t easily available everywhere at the moment. Maybe in 20 years, it will be normal for the new archaeologist to see for themselves what it’s like to fall down an excavation site virtually first, and so avoid it literally.


One example I have of people changing things up for Health And Safety is the airline, Air New Zealand. They regularly make their in-flight safety videos just a little bit fun and different. See this one (closed captions available on YouTube)

Anyone have other suggestions?

Two bits of trivia this week:

• Archaeology is more than 90% about knowing how to manage a project. (Which is answering the three questions of: How much money? How much time? How big is it?)

• Archaeologists working for the government dig about 5-10% of the time, and Archaeologists hired commercially dig about 80% of the time. So varied!

All images from

*speaking of driving home, I took a wrong turn on the way back from uni, again.


11 thoughts on “Dangers but as dry as bones

  1. As a safety and compliance officer, I gave safety presentations every other month for years. I am pretty pleased that some of my presentations are still being talked about – I did one on lab safety using Beaker from the Muppets. Another one had various bears doing dangerous activities (because bears are not careful), I even had one titled “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” that was all about chemical safety and the GHS signage. If the presentation is boring it means the presenter lacks imagination!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. There’s so much they should be able to do with virtual reality. If you forget to identify getting chased by boars, have to do a VR of getting chased by boars, preferably with some sort of sensory stimulation situation going on so you can feel those boar tusks in your but. There’s be no forgetting that again.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Not quite the same thing, but at one point, one of my job duties was conducting a weekly audit of the labs and ensuring that everyone was following the safety regulations and then writing up people for violations. People used to tell me that they were not happy with me when I was in this role. I would say to people that we are all on the same team. I care about protecting your eyesight which is why I am telling you to wear your safety goggles. It’s not that my goal is to ruin your day. Everyone was a lot more enthusiastic once we got budget to offer an incentive prize to the lab that had the best, safest lab w/least amount of write-ups. Sometimes one has to resort to bribery.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hehe that’s cool! I do think there are parallels. Maybe if such a prize was budgeted into most of the Projects in the world, society overall will have better health outcomes.


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