If you had told me a few weeks ago that I would be in the dark, casting myself backwards off a cliff into blackness, with only a tyre inner tube for support, I wouldn’t have believed you. But there I was, courtesy of those in our office who organise the Christmas party – or in this case an expedition - as we went black water rafting at Waitomo. Fortunately, I did land in the water, the inner tube did not let itself or me down, and I floated away under the stern glare of some thousands of hopeful glow-worms. Actually they were maggots, as our guide pointed out. No Fair Trading Act breaches there.
Having managed a factory with serious machinery in my pre-legal days, I am a bit fanatical about health and safety. So I kept the panic at bay by objectively considering the efforts that our guides had taken, to make sure we were safe. The black water rafting trip was a bit startling, but I thought it dealt well with the inherent dangers of taking a group of brave, or perhaps foolhardy people through a limestone cave.
We had our safety briefing, were given appropriate clothing (wetsuits with padding in appropriate places, boots and hard hats with lights), thrown off a jetty to practice the jump and led into the Ruakuri cave. We were given instructions on each leg of the journey as to where to put our feet, when to crouch down (it’s great being short) and how to paddle. The last instruction was wasted on me as I have small hands. I soon realised the water was flowing in the direction we were travelling so decided to lie back and enjoy the ride.
In the end, I got only one spectacular bruise caused by falling over and landing on a sharp piece of limestone. I shudder to think what it would have looked like had it not been for the well-placed padding of my wetsuit. I found out afterwards that our guides were kitted out with backpacks containing food and drink for anyone whose blood sugar was low, together with first aid and other equipment. But it all looked very relaxed and casual and was therefore a bit scary for us.
What we had was the careful adventure tourism experience – taking us into an inherently dangerous place, doing extremely dangerous things to raise our adrenaline (to serious heights, believe me), but with our guides taking all practicable steps to ensure our (and their own) safety, as required by the Health and Safety in Employment Act.
The start of a new year is a great time to have a look at your own workplace health and safety. A good place to start is the Department of Labour website. This page has a good checklist and some sensible suggestions for addressing health and safety in a small workplace.
For a lawyer like me, the most common accident is a paper cut between the fingers (ouch! It really hurts) so I always have antiseptic cream and flexible sticking plaster on hand (didn’t intend that to be a pun, just worked out that way). But the real biggie is postural strain from sitting at a computer for hours on end. Hmmm – perhaps I need a break… Happy new year, everyone.
Rae Nield is a solicitor specialising in marketing law. This article is intended for general information, and should not be relied on as specific legal advice. You should consult a lawyer for advice relating to your own specific legal problems. Rae Nield can be contacted at email@example.com