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Hackerspace Architect: The Accident Book

Hackerspace Architect: The Accident Book

Your hackerspace should have an accident book. People should know where and how to access it. It could be digital if you like, an online system. Or it can be a real accident book, or just a bullet journal.

In the hackerspace develop a culture of reporting accidents and near misses. Resist the urge to develop a blame culture where accidents and near misses “never happen” because the resultant ridicule or ire from having an accident or a near miss and telling someone becomes such, that no one reports them.

Be proud of the number of accidents and near misses that get reported. Study and analyse them. Work out the root cause and what could have been done to prevent them. Look for patterns. Look for things you might have been overlooking or taking as “common sense”.

When we think about hackerspace safety, it’s easy to think about wizzing table saw blades, blinding laser cutters and soldering iron burns. What we often overlook is the simple stuff. Trips, lifting, working heights, extraction and LEV, broken lights, damaged hand tools, blunt craft knives, dirty towels in the toilets and the stress of engaging with a community based organisation with a flat hierarchy.

We laugh at the idea of health and safety, its corporate and dull. DO NOT BE ON FIRE! We yell with abandon. ENGAGE SAFETY SQUINTS!

Finding the right balance with health and safety can be difficult. Too much and it becomes a weapon… to stop change, progress and outlandish ideas, it becomes a way of removing difficult people or creating a risk averse environment. Too little and we risk hurting ourselves and our members. This isn’t about covering our arses, this isn’t about being sued. It’s about being safe and being professional.

Hackerspaces SHOULD places that contain dangers, they SHOULD NOT be dangerous places. A simple test in your hackerspace is to find the accident book. Look at it. When was the last accident reported? Was it never? Do you really have no accidents ever? Ask a member, pick a regular non-trustee one. Ask them what the address of the hackerspace is, can they tell you without looking it up? Lots of spaces are in large shared buildings with complicated access. If a member had to call an ambulance, what would they say?

Another good reason for having an accident book is that it and its resultant discussions and actions, if documented, provide a paper trail. It shows what you did and what the culture of the space was. It’s a black box if you like. Imagine there was a plane crash and you were told “they had a black box, but they didn’t plumb it in, it was empty…” would you assume that this airline, this plane must have done everything perfectly? No, you’d assume they did everything badly. The absence of reported accidents isn’t a sign of a safe space, its a sign of a space that doesn’t report or manage its health and safety. A space in denial.

Get an accident book. Use it.

Today’s thumbnail is the first aid box at Brightbox Makerspace in Sheffield.

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