15 August 2009

Danger at the Zoo

It's not often that you can come out of a meeting and say "that was exciting!". I had a meeting/field trip with the NZ Institute of Safety Management (NZISM) on Thursday to see how safety is being done at Wellington Zoo. We talked about engineering control methods to preserve the safety of workers - and animals - and isolation/minimisation methods as well.

I got a big surprise when they told us that the most dangerous animal at the Zoo is not lions, tigers, or bears, but chimpanzees: they are 4-5 times stronger than a human, have near-human intelligence, are very dextrous, vicious, and incredibly persistent. We went into the chimp night enclosure, and they were using structural steel piping nearly a foot wide, with double reinforced welding, to build the night bedding area. It has 30mm laminated, bullet-proof glass - and the keepers are not sure it's strong enough to resist a chimp. Every bolt is double-welded down, as the chimps have undone every bolt even done up hydraulically. It was quite amazing. We also got taken into the dingo cage and were slobbered all over by a very friendly Alpine dingo (much to the irritation of the cat when I got home). We were escorted around by an engineer and the head keeper, so we got both the perspectives on safety for people and safety for animals. It was fascinating.

The next field trip is looking at safety in a funeral home, which also has some interesting hazards: biohazards, chemicals, manual handling, emotional, stress, are all ones that come to mind immediately.


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