Tue, Jul 26, 2022
The World of Damstra — Why We Exist (Part 1)
By David M. Williams
Head of Engineering – Data and Business Intelligence,
That’s the official number of construction workers who died in an industrial incident during the building of the Hoover Dam. Legend has it some of the bodies are forever entombed in the 4.5 million cubic yards of concrete. It’s enough concrete to build a 1.2m-wide sidewalk around the Earth at the equator. Many say there are additional deaths not on the official record.
In the early 20th century and into the 1930s, America had an explosion of great building projects and infrastructure expansion. Great advancements in construction like the Hoover Dam, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Empire State Building.
Yet these weren’t without human toll.
At that time, it was reckoned the average deaths in construction projects came to one worker dying for every million dollars spent. By example, the Golden Gate Bridge was a 35-million-dollar project and work began with the belief, the understanding, the acceptance that 35 people – someone’s child, someone’s parent – would be lost as a direct result of an industrial accident.
Those 96 official deaths represent 4.57 people per 1,000 workers on the project. It trifles in comparison to the Panama Canal – 408.12 deaths per 1,000 workers or 40%. Imagine going to work knowing that it’s almost an equal chance of you dying as there is surviving?
It’s unthinkable to us today that human life and casualty would be factored into a project of any size, and rightly so. Fortunately, we live in a world where workers and employers alike recognize the need for pro-active, conscious, active safety measures and precautions before putting their body where their brain ought to have gone first.
Today you couldn’t start work on a mine or construction site without full protective equipment such as a hard hat, enclosed boots, eye and ear protection, safety lines, and other items. Yet, equipment is one thing. At the end of the day, it’s still people doing the work, relying upon and trusting each other. And humans are fallible.
My late father said many things, some of which I paid attention to, and some less so. However, one that stuck out to me was his insistence “there’s no such thing as an accident.”
As a boy I protested that broken plates, smashed glasses, or my bent bicycle wheel were all genuine accidents, but he wouldn’t have any of it. Today, as a father myself, I see my children leaving a rake on the ground or using hot water and leaving the tap positioned at hot, or being so tethered to devices they have to stretch and pull electrical cables to manage the dual necessities of drawing power while being seated in their preferred locations. I look at these and see predictable incidents – someone will get hit in the face with a rake, someone will burn their hands, cables will become frayed and dangerous.
It’s no different in the workplace, but the stakes are higher. Sure, some things are truly unpredictable and unavoidable – and we call those freak accidents. But other “accidents” could have been avoided and this adds to the tragedy.
The over-the-limit driver who takes to the wheel, the overworked surgeon, the night-shift worker abusing stimulants, the forklift or dump truck driver who turns up to work without having slept well, the electrician who figures he doesn’t need to use his personal lock for a small outage, the well-intentioned activist who straps themselves to an unmonitored and unmanned coal loader, the crew member working next to you whose licenses are out-of-date but they figure codes and policies haven’t changed …All these have the potential to result in tragic circumstances and, on inspection, we would agree it didn’t have to happen if only somebody, somewhere made a different decision.
According to Safe Work Australia, the number of workplace fatalities are, happily, decreasing. But there are still high numbers of non-fatal worker injuries and far, far more work needs to be done to ensure people worldwide go to work and return home safely to their families at the end of the day. Actually, Safe Work Australia also tracks bystander fatalities – where the actions of a worker or a fault in a workplace result in the death of a member of the public. We need to ensure their safety and wellbeing, too.
This is where Damstra Technology comes in, and this is where our employees come in.
If I asked what Damstra does, you might say we provide a range of software products and tools, and that’s technically correct. You might say we assist companies in ensuring safety and compliance on their workplace, and that’s technically correct.
What Damstra does is on our home page; “connect and protect your world.” – this is what we do (we will cover this in Part 2 of this series). Now, how we go about this is using software tools that help our customers control access to their worksites – ensuring everybody on site is meant to be there, is qualified to do their job, is not impaired – or we help customers record safety observations and incidents, or alert if a worker’s heart rate is elevated or they’ve had a slip or fall, or provide training, or record their important asset details. Other products and services may come in time, some offerings may evolve or even disappear as time goes on, but
our fundamental mission remains constant –
"to connect and protect all that is important in our clients' world."
Those words mean something; the heart of Damstra is to protect the workforce. This is what drives our business. This is why Damstra could mobilize rapidly to provide COVID testing, why we select some companies to be partners and not others, why we invest accordingly, why we offer staff paid leave to volunteer in community activities, and ultimately guide our decisions and products.
How we do it will change over time, but the why we do it is core to Damstra. We’re here to protect the world of our clients and their workers and those involved with them.
This is where our employees come in.
I began by speaking about the magnificent and grand projects of early 20th century America; across the ocean and 250 years prior to the Hoover Dam that Christopher Wren in England was commissioned to rebuild St. Paul’s Cathedral. Wren is described as the most highly-acclaimed English architect in history, famous for the design of expansive and visually stunning churches and other buildings that have lasted hundreds of years. The Great Fire of London in 1666 demolished an area of London which is today its financial heart, taking with it the Cathedral.
Wren, appointed by the King, began his grand design of a Cathedral that was “handsome and noble” and would enhance the “reputation of the city and the nation.”
Wren was actively involved in the construction, completed during his lifetime, and would often visit to supervise progress. On one day he observed three bricklayers and asked what they were doing.
The first bricklayer replied, “I’m a bricklayer. I’m working hard laying bricks to feed my family.” The second bricklayer responded, “I’m a builder. I’m building a wall.”
Wren asked the third bricklayer, “What are you doing?” to which he replied, “I’m helping Sir Cristopher Wren build this magnificent Cathedral.”
Likewise, what are our employees doing at Damstra?
One might be writing software. Another might be constructing hardware. Another might be performing valuable financial and administrative tasks, engaged in marketing or sales or something else.
All of these are tremendous things and vitally important. However, ultimately every role at Damstra is to support the business in connecting and protecting the world for every organization and every individual person involved with us in some way.
So for our employees, if a client asks, “what do you do?” they can confidently say, “I connect and protect your world” – because that’s our goal, our mission, and what their contribution every day is all about.