“The team I am part of do a lot of things that people would normally consider dangerous – we work from jetboats in raging flooded rivers, we abseil down into awkward locations to install scientific equipment and tramp into very rugged terrain.
But despite this, the number one risk for our team, the thing we lead all our health and safety meetings with is driving. The biggest risk to our team’s safety is being on Southern roads.
I’m a field hydrologist and part of the Hydrology team at Otago Regional Council. We’re responsible for environmental monitoring across the region so we spend time driving to obscure places to check on rainfall, river flows and water quality. Our territory is from the Waitaki River down to the Caitlins and across to the Southern Alps.
It’s not uncommon to drive past crashes. A field hydrologist in another region was killed after the vehicle he was in rolled. That shocked us all and reminded us again how vulnerable we are. Everyone in the team has a story that they could share, near-misses are far too common. We talk about the roads and what is happening on them all the time. Sometimes we’ll look at other forms of transport, like helicopters to avoid driving, but often driving is our only option. The close calls serve as a reminder to slow down and stay wary, especially in hot spots.
I’d like to see everyone drive more courteously – there’s no need to rush for the sake of it. At the end of the day getting home safe is the ultimate goal”
Paul Hannah is a Senior Environmental Officer, Hydrology for Otago Regional Council. Road risk is the top health risk for Otago Regional Council – that’s why they’re part of the Southern Road Safety Influencing Group and are working to find a new solution to road risk.