Ancient history...

I cannot help but throw in this delightful use of the classic risk management model (which is sometimes accused of being some 'modern' gimick to confuse and confound employees and employers alike). One of Western Man's earliest scribes, Homer, is supposed to have set the words to the great epic tales of the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey" to papyrus around the 8th century BCE. In particular, when we read the "ODYSSEY", we come across King Odysseus (or, in the Roman nomenclature - Ulysses) making a run for home at the conclusion of the great battle of Troy, and the victory of the Greeks against the Trojans (recall the Wooden Horse of Troy?).

King Odysseus is warned about the Isle of the Sea Sirens, and the rather nasty effect sailing too close would have on his crew and his ship. It would seem the Sirens would sing such a song as to draw the crew to row shoreward and the ship would run aground and be wrecked. King Odysseus however, has other plans.

Using the classic Risk Management techniques as outlined in this very website, he has IDENTIFIED the hazard (the Sirens), ASSESSED the hazard (weighed up likelihoods, outcomes, frequencies and the like), and finally arrives at a method of HAZARD CONTROL.

Being the Chief Executive Officer of the business, of course, it is up to King Odysseus to do the right thing by his employees: if he is going to insist on travelling in dangerous waters, he must ensure their safety! He does so, in the following manner:

He blocks his men's ears with wax, and has himself tied to the mast. He experiences the song of the sirens, but can do nothing about the operation of the vessel, while his men row, row, row the boat gently past the Isle without hearing a thing.

(I like to quote Homer's voice of King Odysseus here, due to its beautiful imagery:

"... I took a large round of wax, cut it up small with my sword, and kneaded the pieces with all the strength of my fingers. The wax soon yielded to my vigorous treatment and grew warm, for I had the rays of my Lord the Sun to help me. I took each of my men in turn and plugged their ears with it. They then made me a prisoner on my ship by binding me hand and foot, standing me up by the step of the mast and tying the rope's end to the mast itself...")

If you have already visited the HAZARD triangle, you will already recognise the use of two of the Hierarchy of Hazard Control Techniques: ISOLATION - whereby King Odysseus is isolated from the hazard; and the use of PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE) - with the plugging of the sailors' ears. (We could also add MITIGATION - since King Odysseus also gives a strong verbal warning to his men - "If I seem to want to break free, tie me even tighter!") 
Another reading of interest to the OHS historian is the case of King Croesus and his decision to go to war against Cyrus - ruler of the Medes (Persians).
Croesus asked for some information from one of the oracles of his ancient world, who told him if he attacked Cyrus a mighty empire will fall. Unfortunately, Croesus immediately leapt to the conclusion the empire was that of Cyrus. Had Croesus asked for a clarification (ie "WHAT empire will fall?") he would have been astounded to hear it would be his own! (And it was!)

So remember, we already stand on the shoulders of giants when it comes to Occupational Health and Safety... and be proud to participate in the profession, since you never know: it may be you who comes up with some great and new device or system that becomes a benchmark for future generations... generations that will include your own kin...

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