"Have a Look Mate"

This came from Barry Dunn, currently a WorkSafe Inspector, previously an HSR on the docks.

It was on one of my first night shifts, that I heard the words used, for that meaning, for the very first time.

I looked at the old hand Wharfie who’d spoken the words through the darkness in the ships hold, and wondered… ‘What’s he on about’?

Cliff gestured upward with his head, and I looked up to see another container was being craned in, some 20 odd metres directly above me; not surprisingly - I remember the words well!

Over 8 years working on the Waterfront, I heard (and used) the words countless times, always when a colleague was in a hazardous situation which they hadn’t recognised.
I never once saw a person ‘take offence’ upon hearing the words.

I’m not quite sure where the words originated, the Bosses never ‘taught’ them to us; but Stevedoring is a ‘tight’ industry, rich in heritage where traditions and lingo have passed through generations.

It’s easy to imagine that the words evolved among mates, when Tall Ships plied the new country, or perhaps they arrived with us from Docks in our Motherlands?

What’s difficult to imagine though, is how many lives the words have saved, or how much suffering they’ve prevented.

I left the Waterfront in 2004 and returned to Construction; off-the-tools now and working OHS.

The work (unfortunately) regularly gives me cause to ponder questions about ‘safety-culture’, and similarities between Stevedoring and Construction; in both industries, risk never sleeps…

  • Men work to tight schedules, in tight spaces, which they have to share with suspended loads and heavy powered mobile plant… second chances are few.
  • Men toil at heights and heavy repetitious manual tasks, in all elements, to secure a livelihood for themselves and the ones they love.
  • Mates care, and try to watch out for each other’s backs.
  • Both industries contain many ‘rough diamonds’ that are not particularly fond of interference, or being told what to do.
  • Workers continue to be killed, maimed and injured needlessly, with unacceptable regularity.
Still, despite all similarities, Construction remains poorer, but for want of one small thing…

A few simple, but ‘universally understood’ words that can be spoken between fellows, without fear of offending… “Have A Look Mate!”

Barry Dunn – Inspector
Construction & Utilities Program
WorkSafe Victoria

PS: Thanks Cliffy

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