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Playing it safe with Shane Webcke


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Shane Webcke:

My motivation for accepting the role as a Queensland Safety Ambassador, obviously is linked to the fact that I lost my father and all that went with that. And the hope that if I could change the attitude of one person and that perhaps – and I'll never know this – but that perhaps prevented that from happening to another family – well, then it would have been worthwhile.

You know – I had a very, very close relationship with my dad. Like I think, all boys do but if you consider that both him and I, like the passion he had for life on the land I had from a very early age I think. And so we had a real connection in that sense anyway. But one of my endearing memories of my dad will always be he was a very early riser and we'd get up – and I used to get up with him and we'd have a cup of coffee. Then we'd set off on big walks around our farm and talking about things and animals and looking at things.

Those memories are really vivid for me and I treasure those because they were moments that dad and I spent alone. They were times that really – that's where you really get to know someone and that's where I really felt the closest to my dad.

Dad was crushed by an industrial wool press at his place of work. And I found out ironically enough, I suppose, it happened in the very early morning hours after a State of Origin. And I got a phone call from mum. It was about 4:00 am in the morning and the moment I answered that phone and I heard mum's voice, I knew what she was going to say to me. And it was to say that dad had been killed.

It becomes a bit of a blur after that. It was just devastating, absolutely devastating. There's no other way to talk about it.

When you lose someone like that, and it happens, when you see where you're from all the memories are there and you've got this realisation hat you're never going to – you're never going to see this person again. It was a tremendously hard morning, and I saw mum and I saw my brother and we were just wrecked.

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And it gets worse as the days goes on because the reality sets in and that's it, no more dad. Never going to see him again. Then all the horror about how it happened and then you put yourself through all sorts of torment hoping that it didn't hurt him, hoping that it was quick. And all the while you're trying to balance a life, you know, and it's an incredibly hard thing to do.

And time is the only thing that gets you past it. And enough time's gone past now that I can speak about it and think about it. But certainly in those early days and those early weeks and months it was horrendous.

I have every confidence that my father should not have died on that day. And not for the obvious reasons—that I think that there was some neglect in terms of – you know – anecdotally what dad had said about these machines and different things. They weren't looked after and they weren't maintained properly and those were his words to us.

But dad being the way he was and the way that he grew up and – you know – not in a safety culture and all those things and being a very pragmatic bloke would never have been the fella to say "Hang on, I'm not going to be working on this machine. It's dangerous. Someone needs to fix it." Dad's attitude would have been – I can just see him – he would have said "She'll be right. We'll just get this job done and then we'll think about it." I think with the combination of them having looked after things a bit better and my dad having a different attitude, dad would still be walking around here today and you and I wouldn't be here doing this. But I do think about when I see my kids and the different things they go through and I just think "It would have been nice for him to have seen that."

My other real thought about this now, is I have a greater responsibility to other people than just to myself. And I think we as people who go to – particularly blokes who are in dangerous workplaces but anywhere, we have a responsibility to our families to go home. If potentially it can kill you and your kids are going to grow up without knowing you and go through everything that we've been through. Is it worth it? And the answer is always going to be categorically "No."

People get killed and accidents happen because people get complacent and they think it's not going to happen. That's when it does happen. The employee and the employer have got an equal hand in having a good, safe workplace and I guess - you know - in so much as being an employer they set the real framework for that. They are the real driver of that. As much as you can lead a horse to water, your employees have got to buy in, but it's the employer who can really lead the way. And I've employed people and I cannot countenance the thought of hurting someone or killing someone. I can't do it. And I don't know how any employer could think any differently. I think any decent, normal-minded person would not want that on their conscience.

Accepting the role as a Queensland Safety Ambassador it makes me feel like his dying - I just think maybe, in my own mind, I feel that maybe it wasn't for nothing. And maybe that by me being able to reiterate these messages and different things, well maybe - I just put something positive around what was a really, really difficult and tragic situation.

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