Goodbye, ancient one

28 10 2022

We’ve had an old peppermint tree (Agonis flexuosa) growing on our property, likely for many generations. But it’s had, and has caused, some problems—the most recent was a tree limb snapping off without warning and landing on the driveway, and previous to that, termites, and branches overhanging the house. We’ve had the overhanging branches lopped several times and had treated the termites. This is the only tree close to our house and it’s many tens of thousands of dollars cheaper to lop a few limbs every few years than to replace an entire smashed corner of a double-brick house!

But with the latest unexpected branch drop, we realised it was time for the tree to go. Who knows what would happen in a big storm with gale-force winds coming from the north-west as they do? Or in a bushfire (the oil in the leaves is highly volatile)?

I contacted the people who’d previously done our lopping, but 2 months after accepting their quote, they still couldn’t give me a date when they’d come. I found another company and the owner came out the next day, gave me a quote on the spot ($400 cheaper than the first quote) and told me it would likely be done within 3-4 weeks. Two weeks later I get a text to see if 7:15am in a couple of days time was OK—sure was!

They turned up at 7am with ALL the regalia—about 4 trucks, a big cherry-picker crane, the wood chipper, a small piece of equipment that could pick up big logs and put them into the back of a truck, etc. By 7:15 they were into it, and within 2 hours they were all done, had cleaned up the site, and taken all bits of the tree away. They also poisoned the stump to hopefully prevent new shoots from forming. They couldn’t grind the stump because of its location on a narrow retaining wall at least a metre off the ground, and they couldn’t cut it down too close to the ground as the base of it was way too big for their various size chainsaws.

I was particularly impressed with their professionalism—using a cherry-picker crane to get to the high branches instead of shimmying up the tree with ropes and leaving chainsaws hanging in the air, using chains and a small loader thing to lift the large trunk piece, and cleaning up. The boss was also training a younger chap, and he spent time showing the young bloke the right way to do things. And they all wore the appropriate safety gear.

From beginning to end…


My first house

10 04 2022

This was not the first house I purchased, but the first I ever lived in! I’ve recently been in touch with someone from the historical society for the Western Australian country town where I spent my life from birth to the day I turned 13, and she just happens to work for the local Shire and has access to old building plans. And she found these plans of the first house I lived in (until I was about 7 years old), which was commissioned by my grandfather to be built for my parents just before they got married.

These were certainly simpler times, as evidenced by the degree of ‘detail’ in the plans (just the 2 pages to get approval to build!) and the design of the house—a simple 4-room house. The price of 2000 pounds (equivalent to $4000) seems ridiculously low, but for the time it was a lot. However, using an online inflation calculator (, that $4000 is equivalent to around $80,000 today, a vast difference to the cost of building a house in Western Australia today. That said, today’s houses have a LOT of bells and whistles—and rooms—and this one certainly didn’t.

Take a look at the materials used in the building—compressed asbestos board was used for the inner and outer walls of the timber-framed house! And according to Mum, lino was the floor covering of choice for the kitchen and later the living room. Lino in those days was full of asbestos too. Mum remembers the other floor coverings in the house too:

    • Kitchen – lino on the floor (more asbestos!)
    • Lounge room – wooden floors until my sister and I started crawling, then cheap lino; no furniture in this room bar a radiogram and my other nana’s treadle sewing machine, which mum would put the playpen over when she’d finished using it to stop us from crawling into the mechanism!; the fire surround was brick (likely red brick)
    • Main bedroom (front of the house) – Feltex carpet (very cheap)
    • Our bedroom – they think it was a wooden floor (and by wooden, probably not polished boards, but plain wood, perhaps oiled)
    • Bathroom – they couldn’t remember, but likely concrete
    • Laundry – red concrete; copper in the corner (the round thing in the laundry); back steps – no handrails
    • Front verandah – red concrete.


The same house after it was built and after I was born—I believe that’s me in the pram on the front verandah, so I was likely less than 12 months’ old, just a tad younger than the house.

Water purifier and softener system

19 02 2022

We had a water purifier and softening system installed earlier this week. Our water here is really hard and full of chemicals such as copper, calcium, and lime, which cause all sorts of scale issues in the pipework, the HWS and other appliances, as well as unsightly blue/green and chalky residue on porcelain, taps, showerheads etc. But you can’t just buy a system and install it—there has to be drainage for the monthly purge of the system, which meant a soakwell and a new drain under the concrete slab, plus all the pipework to route the water from the mains point into the house through the filtration and softening system, and a new electrical point for the pumps for the monthly purge. The plumbers and electrician did a great job in the stinking hot weather!


The great experiment is nearly over

13 12 2021

See most recent update, dated 21 Jan 2022 (below)

Our protected status is likely to be lifted soon (the actual date is expected to be late Jan/early Feb). From our state’s newspaper a few hours ago:

Mark McGowan is set to announce the date WA’s border will reopen to the rest of Australia and the world at 2pm. WA first introduced a hard border on April 6, 2020 – a measure described by Mr McGowan as “turning WA into its own island within an island” – meaning border controls have now been in place for 616 days and counting.

I hope someone does a case study of what our state did—we have 2.5+ million people living here (more than 2+ million just in the Perth metro area alone), yet we’ve only had just over 1000 COVID cases in almost 2 years, and fewer than 10 deaths from COVID in that same time. We’ve hardly ever worn masks, except for a few lockdowns when we went hard and fast to minimise potential exposure. Our hard borders have WORKED, and our day-to-day life within the state has been ‘normal’ for the past 2 years compared to many parts of the world. The time it brought for us was to get 80%+ of the population over 16 double-vaxxed, with single dose numbers up around 90%.

Our protected status will likely change once the borders reopen and COVID is allowed in. But with the vax rates we have, hopefully, the impact won’t be too dire.

Update: 5 February 2022 is the date we reopen to Australia and the world. From Mark McGowan, State Premier:

This is an incredible milestone for our State. We are one of the most vaccinated societies in the world and we have achieved this without having extended lockdowns, virus outbreaks or any community spread of the virus. We followed a different model to the others and it has worked. We have been able to get through the last two years safely because of the efforts of West Australians.

There will still be quite a lot of travel and large gathering restrictions around vaccination status, testing etc. But it’s a start.

And no, I won’t be getting on a plane to go anywhere in the foreseeable future!

Update 13 Jan 2022 from a press conference by the State Premier, Mark McGowan:


West Australians will need to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to access a wide range of venues and events from January 31, Premier Mark McGowan has announced.

Mr McGowan said proof of double-dose vaccination would be required for those aged 16 and older at hospitals, aged care facilities and all hospitality venues, including restaurants, cafes, pubs and bars, taverns, nightclubs and where dine-in fast food is available.

The requirement will also extend to indoor entertainment venues including play centres, gaming and gambling venues including Crown Perth, theatres, concert halls, museums, cinemas and live music venues.

Bottle shops, gyms, fitness centres, health studios, amusement parks and the zoo are also encompassed by the new rules, which already apply to events with more than 500 people, including music festivals and major stadiums.

There will not be many public places unvaccinated people can visit, but they will be permitted to get takeaway food and visit roadhouses and petrol stations.

Community sport and school-based events will also be exempt, unless at one of the specific venues listed.

Mr McGowan said life would become very difficult for the unvaccinated from January 31.

“No pubs, no bottle shops, no gym, no yoga classes, no gigs, no dancefloors, no hospital or aged care visits.

“If you choose to remain unvaccinated, you are choosing to put yourself at risk, you are choosing to put the people around you at risk, and you are choosing to increase the burden on our health staff.”

Mr McGowan said the proof of vaccination requirement would apply statewide and he expected the requirement would be in place “for years to come”.

He also flagged that he expected the vaccination requirement would be expanded to three doses in the future.

Update 21 Jan 2022: Our hard borders are to remain in place for the foreseeable future. Some conditions of entry have changed. On a personal level, I’m happy with this decision, but I know it will cause hardship for some industries and families. But then so would an uncontrolled outbreak of the Omicron variant, as evidenced at the moment in the eastern states where hospitals, supply chains etc. are under extreme pressure because of staff off sick. Full details: and

My #1 role model — Mum

12 12 2021

My mum has her 90th birthday around Christmas, so we had a family get together this weekend so we could celebrate this milestone without the madness of Christmas commitments getting in the way. Dad (91) asked me and my niece to say a few words. I knew my niece would talk about Mum in her roles as mother, grandmother, and great grandmother, but Mum’s influence on me was different. Here’s what I said (some identifying info has been removed/changed).


Others will talk today about Mum as the best mother, grandmother, and great grandmother. But I’m going to take a different tack and focus on how she influenced me.

I always knew Mum was pretty special just because she’s my Mum, but I only recently found out some more things about her life, before Dad and us. Mum gave me her old high school yearbook, and I found out she’d been a sports house captain in Year 12 and an outstanding netball player. I already knew that she was a bit of a pioneer because not only did she go on to Year 12 when it was very unusual for women to do so, but also to teachers college. In those days, maybe 10% of ALL 14-year-olds went on to tertiary education, and very few of those were women. This was the late 1940s and the [Australian] government was bending all the rules to get returned WW2 servicemen back into the workforce, so for her to get a place at teachers college wouldn’t have been easy. But the [state] government wasn’t so friendly as to let her keep teaching, and she was sacked at the end of 1953. Why? Because she got married! It was Education Department policy that as soon as a female teacher married, they lost their job!!! Not the men… just the women. I think the moment I found out about this, I became a feminist, so I have Mum to thank for that.

Mum has been the best role model a girl could have. She didn’t just say we could do or be anything we wanted—she showed us by her actions. At a time when most women were forced to abandon any thought of a career and live out their lives doing unpaid housework and child rearing, Mum was running businesses with Dad and, for a while, his parents. In [town], she was front of house in the bakery, she looked after the accounts, and she learnt cake decorating. With Nana B she decorated countless wedding cakes, dipped hundreds of thousands of lamingtons, and filled countless cream puffs (those Italians in [town] had BIG weddings!) Did I also mention she ran the house, did all the cooking (most on a wood stove) and laundry (by hand, in a copper also heated by wood fire, until she got a washing machine), and reared 2 children? And that she likely didn’t get a salary?

When they were in their mid-late 30s, she and Dad upped stumps and moved to [larger town] to start a new completely different venture in the [name] shopping centre—a newsagency that wasn’t allowed to sell newspapers! After 7 years, they had one of the biggest newsagencies in [the state], based on turnover. And after many years of fighting bureaucracy and local newsagents, they finally got the OK to sell newspapers. Again, Mum quietly ran the business and money side of it all (buying stock, doing all the accounts, dealing with the reps), as well as being behind the counter with Dad. Later came [another town] and [a caravan park], which they ran for 8 years, turning it from a run-down caravan park into a thriving business. Again, Mum ran the business side of things, from bookings (often getting a phone call after 10pm when someone decided that they needed to book right now for the Christmas holidays) through to everything to do with the accounts. In all of this, there were no computers, just an adding machine, ledgers and booking books, and pens, pencils, and erasers, lots of erasers as bookings got changed around and vans and campsites got shifted around on paper—everything was done by hand and it all took a lot of time and nous to juggle it all.

After they retired, Mum and Dad were very involved in volunteer groups. Mum continued to look after their finances, and she still does. She was born in the Depression and lived her early years in what we would now term extreme poverty on a farm in the middle of nowhere at the back of [town in the wheatbelt]. Her South African parents had migrated just a few years before, and Nana P (her Mum) spoke almost no English when she arrived. From Mum’s experience growing up in the Depression years came a deep-seated belief in never wasting money—if you couldn’t afford it, you couldn’t have it. Speaking of frugal, in the early days after the [Australian] $50 note was released in 1973, it was very rare to see one, possibly because Mum stashed every one that she found in the businesses into a sanitary napkin box under the bathroom sink! There were no point-of-sale machines then to track what money came in and went out! She did the same with the early 50c coins, which were predominantly silver until the government realised they cost way more to produce than their face value—she had a stash of those too! I told you she was my role model!

Because of Mum’s business acumen and astuteness with money, their retirement years (until COVID hit) have been filled with travel all over the world and they’ve never wanted for anything. Despite paying untold taxes all their lives, they’ve never received a pension or government concession card. And Mum still watches the pennies, sniffing out things on sale.

Through all of this, Mum and Dad have stood together like a rock. I’m sure they had their ups and downs, but as kids, we never got to see that (except one time with the lemon meringue pie! [and no, I won’t elaborate]). They were a united front in everything and a formidable force as a couple. They love each other deeply, and have loved all their family as deeply, and they’ve been very proud of us all.

So, Mum, you’ve been the best role model a girl could have—you’ve walked the walk, not just talked the talk, and I’m very very proud when people say ‘you’re just like your Mum’, because while, for them, I may look like you, in my heart I know that it’s much more than that.


More information on coppers and other laundry paraphernalia, most of which I remember from my childhood in rural Australia (by the time I went to university, washing machines were common, typically a Twin Tub):

The wood stove Mum cooked on was a Metters No 2:

[Links last checked December 2021]

Feeling vindicated

1 12 2021

Feeling vindicated and very glad software testing was a de facto part of my job as a tech writer. We got a new air conditioning (AC) controller just under 2 weeks ago to better control the temperatures and airflow in each zone. The office zone worked fine; the living area… not so much. It was way too cold early in the morning when the outside temp was <15C and way too hot if the outside temp was >25C. The living area temp was set to 22C (cool mode), but I was recording up to 6C above or below that set temp. And our summer temps haven’t kicked in yet.

I recorded data—lots of data… temps at various spots in the house, weather bureau outside temps, power usage. A pattern began to form (patterns are good—you can narrow things down with a good pattern!). The patterns showed that the office temps were fine and within tolerances, and the issue was definitely the living area. I took photos of the controller’s settings, a video of the almost non-existent air flow from the outlets in the living area, and deduced that something was wrong in the roof space—either the ductwork for the living area, or on the new ‘motherboard’ control unit installed up there. I sent all my data and deductions to the AC people on Sunday.

The bloke from the AC company came out today. We talked about many things AC-related (and I learnt a lot), but he wasn’t really convinced the issue was in the roof until he’d eliminated everything else, which he did. Next stop, the roof space. And there he found an entire piece of ducting was NOT connected to the main ductwork. He showed me photos he took up there and I wanted to fist pump the air because I KNEW that was likely one of the 2 main causes I’d already figured out.

After he reconnected it all, we immediately had lovely cool airflow into the living area. On behalf of the company, he was most apologetic, and said he would definitely be having words with the installer and the apprentice, would be bringing it up in a staff meeting, AND would supply us with another sensor (about $150) for the 3rd zone for free.

It’s getting real

11 10 2021

My school reunion just got real—today I printed off the 53 name tags of those who’ll be attending! It’s on in 12 days!

We found 85 of our group, had 32 apologies, no responses from 4, and the remaining 49 said they’ll attend, plus 3 ex-teachers and 1 partner of an ex-student.

(photo deliberately blurred)

And a few days later, I’d finished compiling and editing the yearbook and printed off my first copy (110p, from 59 contributors of the 85 found)

School reunion organisation

27 09 2021

I’ve been very lax in blogging for the past few months. I lost my quilting mojo about 12 months ago and it hasn’t come back—it will, but just not yet. My blogging mojo has disappeared too.

Meantime, I’ve been involved in organising a [very big scary number] reunion of those I graduated high school with. Since May, I’ve spent many hundreds of hours searching for and chasing down people (our only other previous reunion was before the internet!), setting up and managing a private Facebook group, sending out emails, etc. Neither the school nor the state education department nor the state library/archives seem to have any record of our class lists, and except for the previous reunion a long time ago, we had no idea of name changes for the females when they married, and just a few lists from that reunion, our old school magazines, and our memories to go on. Unlike some schools, we don’t have any sort of alumni association or central location where information is kept, so a lot of sleuthing has been happening.

We’re getting to the pointy end now, with the reunion scheduled to happen in just under 4 weeks’ time (COVID permitting).

I crunched some numbers today and this is what we have so far:

  • ~170 ex students on our lists, 10 of whom we know have died, so ~160 possible attendees at the reunion, of whom we have contact details for 83. We’ve ‘lost’ some 77 in the past [scary number] decades and have no contact details for them. We’ve reached out to some who we’ve found via internet searches using Facebook, LinkedIn, possible relatives, text messages, etc. but have received no reply – and that’s OK because school wasn’t a good place for many.
  • Of those 83 possible attendees, we know that 17 definitely can’t or won’t attend because they’re overseas, interstate, have other commitments, or don’t want to come, so that leaves us with 66 possibles.
  • Of those 66 possibles, 42 have indicated they will attend (+ 3 teachers); we haven’t received RSVPs from the other 24 as yet.
  • We’ve now received 30 brief bios for the yearbook from the 83 possibles (except for [name]’s bio, which is NOT brief 🙂 but he’s had such a fascinating life we’ve included most of it). Each bio takes between 15 minutes and an hour to edit, add to the yearbook, crop and add photos, etc. 
  • We’ve added headshot photos to the yearbook for many — some have been sent to us by the owners of the photos, some of the older ones we’ve grabbed from the old school magazines where people didn’t have a photo of themselves from way back when, some we’ve found on Facebook, LinkedIn, or other public internet sites. Everyone looks fantastic! Some are really recognisable as just slightly older versions of their school selves, while others are ‘Wow! Is that really xxxx?’

Looking at those numbers, I’m impressed that of the 66 possibles, already 42 have replied that they’re attending. It will be a very informal event, just 2.5 hours in a bar/restaurant  that’s opening especially for us. We’ll have a couple of speeches from the head boy and head girl early on, and then it will be a gabfest 🙂 I’ll be sending out the first edition of the yearbook the week prior so people can read up on others before the event, if they wish. Then, if we get further bios plus photos from the event, we’ll likely add those to a 2nd edition to be sent out a few weeks later.

It’s been fun and has drawn out a lot of my own memories—I’ve even created a playlist of well over 350 songs from my teen years!

(One other thing: Considering how many years have passed, our ‘death rate’ is very low—we know 10 of the 170 have died, though there may be more, which is just 6% of our cohort. I was checking on the whereabouts of an American exchange student we hosted that year who was from Seattle, and her high school’s reunion page for the same year lists some 150 students, of whom more than 50 (~35%) have died.)


I just don’t get it

6 08 2021

I just don’t get it. I don’t get why some people are SOOOO up in arms about vaccination status information being needed for work, travel, entry to venues etc. It’s not like this, or showing other types of statuses, is anything new. For example, in the Australian state where I live and in many other places, you are subject to these requirements, at least:

  • Drivers licence (state):
    • must have to drive a car
    • must sit a written test and a practical driving test to get it
    • must be at least 17 years old
    • must produce your licence on demand from a police officer
    • must have a photo taken for your licence, except under exceptional circumstances
    • can use as one form of verified (photographic) authentication of who you are
    • no licence = no driving
  • Gun licence (state)
    • must have to own and use a gun
    • must get from police department
    • minimum 28-day waiting period to get approved
    • must have a REALLY good reason to get one
    • checks are made in state, national, and possibly international databases before issuance
    • no licence = gun confiscated
  • Working with children licence (state)
    • must have if you want to work with children, whether paid or voluntary (e.g. teaching, child care, sporting teams, the local library, etc.)
    • must be able to produce on request of any prospective employer (including voluntary organisations)
    • must be authorised by the police department after checks are made in state, national, and possibly international databases
    • no licence = no work
  • Fishing licence (state)
    • must have if you want to catch certain types of fish
    • must produce on demand from a Fisheries Dept officer
    • no licence = not allowed to catch those types of fish
  • Boating licence (Recreational Skippers Ticket) (state)
    • must have to legally operate a boat >6hp on any body of water
    • must produce on demand from a Department of Transport official (and/or police or fisheries officer?)
    • must be at least 14 years old
  • Passport (federal)
    • must have a photo taken for it
    • must have a passport to leave your home country and to enter any other country
    • typically, also need a visa to enter that other country (e.g. ESTA to enter the US from Australia)
    • multiple checks are done when leaving or entering another country (e.g. by air: airline employees at check-in, then security staff at the entrance to the immigration area, then customs/immigration/border force officers, then airline staff again when boarding the aircraft)
    • no passport = can’t leave home country or enter another
    • no visa = deported from other country, at your expense
    • in addition, I have to be photographed and fingerprinted every time I enter the US—the US government has more details about me than the Australian government as NO Australian government agency has ever taken my fingerprints!
    • if I’m in the US and within 100 miles of a border, I need to keep my passport with me at all times (yes, I was subject to a border patrol check near Tucson, AZ one time and fortunately had my passport with me, not locked in my luggage in the hotel room)
  • Proof of age
    • required by licensed premises to sell you alcohol if they deem that you might be under a certain age
    • no ID = no entry or no sale of alcohol
  • Proof of vaccination
    • for ALL my school years, my parents had to show my (government) school my vaccination card to prove that I’d had my required shots (diphtheria, polio, mumps, measles, rubella etc.); school nurses would also come to all the schools to do vaccinations [hand out sugar lumps for the polio vaccine] and update our cards (I think I still have that card somewhere)
    • for as long as I can remember, I’ve had to have proof of vaccination to travel to certain countries (most recently, I needed to get various hepatitis and typhoid shots to travel to a particular country, and much earlier, proof of smallpox, yellow fever vaccinations; I still have that card in my travel documents for any overseas travel)
    • no vaccination that’s required by a country (or by your home country on your return) = no entry to that country
  • Workplace rules (public or private companies, government premises, retail premises, etc.)
    • many workplaces have employee/visitor ID badges (often with a photo) that must be scanned to gain entry to any building, elevator, or floor where they work (no badge = no access)
    • many workplaces have rules about fitness for duty (e.g. alcohol, drugs) and have random drug and alcohol tests that employees agree to as a condition of their employment (no compliance = anything from a warning to dismissal)
    • many companies have dress codes for employees, visitors, and/or customers, which might include safety rules for workwear (e.g. hi-vis clothing, all-cotton clothing, steel-capped boots, long sleeves/trousers, ear/eye protection, hard hats, PPE for certain activities [e.g. chemical gloves, breathing apparatus] etc.) (no compliance = anything from a warning to dismissal [employees] or refusal of entry [others], PLUS the potential to harm or cause the death of themselves or others)
    • public-facing workplaces (whether publicly or privately owned) have rules for visitor/customer entry (e.g. age restrictions, minimum clothing requirements, minimum behaviour standards) (no compliance = anything from a warning to ejection from the workplace)
    • some hotels (and all rental car companies) require proof of ID (e.g. drivers licence with a photo) as well as a credit card when you check in (the hotel requirement for proof of ID I’ve mostly encountered in the US); if you don’t provide it, you may be denied a room/car, even if you have a reservation.
    • these are their rules and if you don’t like it, you’re free to go elsewhere
  • Cruise ships
    • require you to HAND OVER your passport for the duration of the cruise (my only experience was on my one cruise, in the Caribbean, but my parents who’ve been on many cruises, say this is standard, and you’re not allowed to embark until you do so)
    • you don’t get your passport back when you disembark in another country for anything from a few hours to a day or so (yes, that’s scary because if you’re taken into custody for whatever reason, you not only don’t have your passport, but you may not make it back to the ship either, thus perhaps never seeing your passport again)
    • you only receive your passport back a few hours before you’re due back in the disembarkation port, typically after the home country’s immigration people board the ship and check everyone’s credentials before disembarkation.

No doubt there are many others. I haven’t even listed any of the myriad health and safety rules and laws that manufacturers of goods/food must comply with, nor the rules about driving a car we must comply with (e.g. wear seatbelts, turn on headlights at night, obey traffic signals etc.), or anything else, nearly all of which are to PREVENT US HARMING OR KILLING OURSELVES AND OTHERS IN OUR VICINITY.

So why this frenzy about vaccination requirements? ACTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES. If you don’t have a drivers licence, you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and if you do, you’ll get fined or jailed—you might even kill yourself or one or two other people. If you don’t have proof of vaccination or refuse to reveal your vaccination status, you aren’t allowed to enter and/or work in certain places because you’ll endanger potentially MANY others in those places. And it’s always been so, at least for much of the last century and this one.

(Note: I will delete any comment that isn’t respectful or that spouts conspiracy theories garnered from the fringe corners of the internet—my blog, my rules. You’re free to voice your opinion somewhere else.)

Update: Since I wrote this an hour or so ago, I’ve found out that a best friend of mine in the US is now under self-imposed ‘house arrest’ all because so many won’t get vaccinated (COVIDIOTs, as she calls them). After decades of kidney disease, she was the recipient of a life-saving kidney transplant and is severely immunocompromised, and will be for the rest of her life. Their decisions are affecting her quality of life, and potentially her life.

Update 8 August 2021: Spotted on a retweet today; attributed to @KenTremendous: You are not allowed to claim something is a ‘personal choice’ if it affects literally everyone else you come into contact with. A ‘personal choice’ is what movie to watch, or what color pants to wear. Doing something that endangers the lives of others is an ‘everyone choice.’

Making the roof space safe for workers

8 07 2021

Every time I see a tradesperson hoist themselves from the top of their ladder through the access hole into our home’s roof space, I’ve cringed. It all looks so awkward—and dangerous! And it’s certainly something I’d never do (and doubt I could do these days as my upper body strength isn’t good).

Because I’ve worked in industries (e.g. mining; oil and gas; OHS software) where health and safety are HUGE issues, I’ve been concerned about this safety issue for some time. In Australia, very few houses have attics, so the roof space is a dusty open area of struts and rafters, with insulation between the rafters, plumbing pipework, electrical cables, air conditioning ductwork etc. When someone hoists themselves into the roof space, they don’t know what they’ll be faced with. They don’t know the layout and how they will support themselves and their tools. They typically wear a head lamp or carry a torch as there are no lights up there (and under a state law, the power to the house must be turned off if a anyone needs to access the roof space, so lights would be useless). Getting themselves and their tools up there usually entails a couple of trips up and down the ladder and through the small access hole.

Getting down is just as bad. They have to position and balance themselves on the access hole’s framework, dangle their legs until they reach the ladder, then climb down. Again, multiple trips if tools are involved.

I discussed this with my handyman (who is 194 cm [6′ 4″]), and he said all tradies are used to this and he didn’t really see the need. We talked about a commercial attic ladder from the garage into the roof space, but there were a few logistical issues with that. My next idea was some sort of platform, and preferably a railing, so that workers had somewhere to gather themselves and their belongings, without having to balance themselves on narrow rafters and framework. He was a bit skeptical about how useful it would be, but hey, I’m the client, and he’d figure out something.

And boy, did he figure something out! He created a platform, but first he had to add supporting framework above the nearby linen cupboard space as it didn’t have any, then build the platform, and then he chamfered the supporting vertical strut so that workers would have something to hold onto as they pulled themselves up into the roof space. His skepticism disappeared and this is what he wrote in an email with the pictures he sent: ‘I know it doesn’t look much but it actually has made a huge difference in getting in and out of the roof. I can stand 90% upright where the hammer is—originally that section was a void over the linen cupboard with no framing to stand on. I chamfered the Karri upright which gives a nice hand hold in addition to the other edge of the access hole.”

I think he’s a convert! And I’ll feel more comfortable any time someone has to go into our roof space.