Changing age-old traditions for a safer workplace

Those who work at cemeteries do numerous hazardous manual tasks and are often prone to serious injuries. As an employee of Coffs Harbour City Council, John worked at the local cemetery and was concerned about the damage he and others were doing to their backs when lowering coffins into graves.

Mini tractor in field of flowers

Despite the generations-old method of lowering coffins, John was determined to find a safer alternative. After extensive consultation with council colleagues and funeral parlours, he designed and built a trolley on an A-frame to transport a coffin-lowering device behind a ride-on mower or small tractor.

John’s invention reduces manual handling activities by about 90 per cent and minimises trip hazards around the grave. It eliminates the need to lift the 52-kg coffin-lowering device on and off the frame and eliminates the need to push the 300-kg trailer.

Following John’s innovative creation, the council now actively encourages all staff to be proactive and provide suggestions on improving health and safety outcomes.

Fittingly, John (pictured below) was a stand-out winner at the 2017 SafeWork Awards for best individual contribution to workplace health and safety.

John Pearce at SafeWork NSW Awards 2017
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