MAGIC BULLETS AND ROAD FATALITIES IN JAMAICA

Magic bullet – magic bullet (noun): A simple remedy to a difficult or complex problem, especially a cure for a disease. Often used to refer to a non-existent, overly simplistic remedy. Wiktionary.

A total of 482 persons died on the roads in Jamaica in 2022. This is 7 less than in 2021 and is the number predicted in a May forecast by Dr. Lucien Jones Vice Chairman of the National Road Safety Council (NRSC). In statement after statement, Dr. Jones has retained a focus on enforcement and emphasized the need for the implementation of the New Road Traffic Act and for an efficient and robust ticketing system. To be fair to him, he has also mentioned a wider perspective which includes a Safe Systems Approach to managing road safety.

A tremendous amount of hope is being pinned on the Magic Gun – The New Road Traffic Act and its Regulations, and one Magic Bullet – the revised ticketing system with increased fines, to make an immediate change in the traffic landscape. Listen to Minister of Transport Audley Shaw – “As a Government, we are committed to reduce the crashes on the nation’s roads, and with the new Road Traffic Act which has just been passed, motorists will face tough sanctions for breaching the rules.” This is a newspaper reference to a statement by the PM – Holness said it is essential that the disorder on the nation’s roads be addressed as a matter of urgency, an issue which the new Road Traffic Act will treat. A year ago, this was the voice of the PSOJ, “The PSOJ firmly believes the Road Traffic Act is a key legislative component in achieving the overall objective of public safety and order.”

In my humble view, this well intentioned emphasis on Enforcement of a New Road Traffic Act is misplaced. Many of the current laws are sound and need no further legislative crutch – yet they are not being enforced and the breaches are committed in full view of the enforcers. As an example, what else does the JCF need to enforce the wearing of helmets by motorcyclists or to conduct breathalyzer tests for alcohol impairment on a scheduled basis? We cannot deny that we have enforcement issues. In 2021, about 1/3 of the road deaths (154) occurred during curfew hours, when persons should have been off the roads.

Traffic violations in Cross Roads. Note parked Police Car.

I suspect that the magic gun will misfire and the magic bullet will miss and that next year this time, we will still be over 400 traffic fatalities, unless we see traffic management for what it is and make a serious effort to understand many of the behavioral and engineering issues which contribute to and support the high numbers. Any many of these issues are hiding in the open! It is not difficult to find a taxi operator in Half Way Tree who is smoking weed and has his plastic cup with liquor early in the morning and who may not be able to appreciate the difference between a red and a green traffic signal. It is not difficult to see vehicles being made prematurely defective by traversing through potholes on major roadways.

I have no difficulty with the Safe Systems approach and have no doubt that if properly implemented will yield good results. I hope it will not be bastardized by the enforcement giant that has overtaken the thinking of our Leadership in their efforts to improve road safety.

  A report entitled Preventing Road Traffic Injuries in Jamaica Gap Analysis and Recommendations, was prepared for the National Road Safety Council by Johns Hopkins University Center for Injury Research and Policy. It had a listing of 24 Best Practice Recommendations for improving traffic safety in Jamaica. They were in the 6 categories of:

Increasing fines was one subset of the structural recommendations and was by no means the major action item of the report.

1. Structural

2. Cultural/Educational

3. Vehicle safety

4. Data

5. Emergency Response

6. Electronic surveillance

New York City introduced their Safe Systems Approach in 2014. The results are discussed in Vision Zero, 6 Year Report June 2020 (reference below). The report was structured into 6 sections. Some examples of sub-activities included:

1. Expanding public knowledge

2. Speed Management: adjusting speed limits, installing speed cameras

3. Engineering: Improving safety at intersections, speed cushions, creating pedestrian priority zones

4. Enforcement: focusing on acts likely to cause harm such as speeding and failure to yield to pedestrians

5. Leadership in Professional Driving: Training for taxi and limousine permit applicants, safety training for city bus operators, improving garbage truck safety, installation of audible warning system to alert pedestrians of buses turning.

6. Engagement: Safety discussions with manufacturers and suppliers of vehicles, truck eye view – having motorists understand blind spots around large vehicles.

Their self-evaluation indication a work in progress that was achieving some positive results.

On the matter of the effectiveness of summonses and ticketing, a review of Vision Zero Initiatives in New York City 2014-2021 The Impact of Vision Zero Initiatives on Road User Safety in New York City by Phares et. al. (ref below) had this to say. “A comparative trend analysis was done on the relationship between summonses issued by New York Police Department (NYPD) and traffic fatalities. It was found that law enforcement was ineffective in improving traffic safety.”

I do hope that somewhere hidden in the NRSC approach (behind the increased fines), are other approaches which aim to change behavior such as:

– Safety training in lieu for fines for first time violators for some traffic offences

– Proving an easy and anonymous way for persons to report violations

– Introducing driver instruction in schools

Target Setting. We seem to have set a current road fatality target of 300, despite the fact that in the past 20 years, we were only below 300 in the year 2012. I have not yet heard a new target from the NRSC. But while we wait for the Magic Day or March 1, 2023 when the Magic Canon will be rolled out, Regulations will be in place and PSTEB will be fully energized and tickets will be written from dusk till dawn, what else can the authorities do?  My short list while we wait include:

– Start enforcing the wearing of helmets for motorcyclists. This does not need a new law to be enforced.

Celebrities on motorcycle in Jamaica

– Stop accepting that taxis can stop anywhere. Any taxi any day any time will stop in the middle of any intersection to pick up and discharge passengers. This does not need a new law to be stopped.

Taxi at corner of Suthermere and Constant Spring Road

Taxi stopped to pick up a passenger while in the right lane on Marcus Garvey Drive

– Stop accepting that there is hardly any law for Taxis and buses on Molynes and Red Hills Road. This does not need a new law to be enforced.

Taxis forming a second and third lane on Red Hills Road which is a 2 way road.

– Stop accepting that taxi drivers can leave their cars to hustle for passengers and block the left turn lane from Hope Road onto Half Way Tree Road, when the light is on green. This does not need a new law to be enforced.

– Stop accepting that Spanish Town Road, Washington Boulevard and many other roads cannot be pothole free, so that motorists do not have to be swinging around potholes. This does not need a new law to be done.

– Relocate some Bus Stops that are poorly located and which cause traffic obstructions. This does not need a new law to be done.

Satellite imagery of corner of Chesterfield Drive and Spanish Town Road. A long bus will effectively block the intersection if it stops at the designated area.

Road view of the Bus Stop above. Any vehicle at the bus stop will obstruct traffic entering onto Spanish Town Road.

– Enforce rules for buses at Three Miles, so that passengers are not discharged in unsafe areas. This does not need a new law to be done.

Passengers being discharged at the entrance of the slip road to Hagley park Road. The bus stops for city traffic are under the bridge.

– Fix the issues on Marcus Garvey Drive, so that hundreds of persons can stop playing hopscotch with high speed traffic daily. When they run past the vehicles, the next hurdle is to get over a concrete barrier without falling into the path of oncoming traffic on the other side of the barrier.

Twice a day, hundreds of persons are exposed to traffic and fall hazards on Marcus Garvey Drive.

– Revise speed limits. There are many 50 Km/h zones that could be changed to 65 Km/h without any additional safety concerns. Any there are some 50 km/h zones that should be reduced to 30 km/h – hospital and school zones.

These are some of the many things that we can start to do on January 1, 2023, without the benefit of the New Road Traffic Act. There is no intention to focus on Public Passenger Vehicle operations, but their disregard for traffic laws, their continued breaches in full view of the police, their expectation of amnesties, and their contribution to road traffic fatalities make them a group requiring special attention,

.

Give us vision lest we perish. Never were truer words spoken. I sincerely wish for vision for all of us, but particularly for those who will be leading the road safety effort as we go into 2023.

References.

The Impact of Vision Zero Initiatives on Road User Safety in New York City,  Alex C. Phares, West Virginia University, Md Amdad Hossen, West Virginia University, Kakan Dey, West Virginia University, https://researchrepository.wvu.edu/murr/vol6/iss1/11/

Vision Zero, 6 Year Report June 2020.

Preventing Road Traffic Injuries in Jamaica Gap Analysis and Recommendations

Source of images.

Cross Roads web cam, celebrities on motorcycle, taxi at Suthermere Road, taxis on Red Hills Road, and imagery of Chesterfield Drive are from the internet. All other images are my own.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

FALLS FROM LADDERS AND THE IMPORTANCE OF EMPLOYEE TRAINING

The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay. — Henry Ford, Founder, Ford Motor Company.

Falls from ladders remain a serious issue in both domestic and industrial space worldwide. The Bureau of Labor Statistics report that In the US in 2020, 105 persons died 22,710 were treated for ladder related injuries. In Australia, 5 persons die and 1,600 are hospitalized annually due to falls from ladders.

Some years ago, I visited the Mandeville Regional Hospital in Central Jamaica and was shocked at the behavior of a two man painting crew, who were repainting the upper floor of the hospital building. They were violating most known principles of ladder safety. Contributing factors could have been many – lack of hazard awareness, poor or no supervision, overconfidence or others. Perhaps there could even have been the perverse thought, that despite the high risk involved, medical assistance would be readily available, given that they were working in a hospital. The risks to both painter and assistant were serious injury, permanent disability or death.

It is hard to believe that with proper training, they would have been operating this way.

What were they doing?

The task appeared to be the painting of the upper floor of the building

1. They were using a portable 25 ft. extension ladder which they moved from time to time.

2. Ladder placement was not vertical in one instance

3. The ladders was not secured in any way

4. The assistant who was at the base of the ladder, did not pay much attention to the painter until it was time to renew the paint roller

Painter at Mandeville Regional Hospital. Assistant is seated at base of ladder.

5. The painter often reached outside the rails of the ladder on both left and right sides

6. The painter was distracted by his phone and was both taking and placing calls

.

Painter reaching for his cell phone

7. At times, two persons would be on the ladder. The paint container was kept on the ground. There were two rollers. When the active roller was depleted, the assistant would refill the inactive roller and climb hallway up the ladder where he would exchange rollers with the painter.

8. In most instance, there was the maintenance of a three points of contact, however at times all three were not with the ladder as the painter would be supported by the window sill.

Painter reaching beyond rails of ladder. One foot is on window sill.

9. Reach outside of the rails was extreme and at times most of the painter’s body mass, would have been outside the rails.

10. Reach outside the rails was for an extended period. The ladder could have been retracted/replaced for painting under the middle window. The painter chose instead to “lean into it.”

Painter reaching far to the left. Entire area under window painted in this manner.

Interestingly, there was no Supervisor with the painting crew and no one on the property, seemed particularly perturbed, by what was a highly unsafe operation.

Reports on court cases from injuries which arise from falls from ladders make interesting reading. There is the case of Desmond Anderson vs Kingston Hilton Hotel, where the claimant contends that he fell because the ladder was defective and the defendant countering that the ladder was perfect and that there were two assistants provided to secure the ladder. The court found that the ladder was not defective but that one of the assistants was not in place – and made judgement 70% for the claimant and with a 30% reduction for contributory negligence, as the claimant erred in trying to descend an unsecured ladder. Lloyd Anderson vs General satellite is also interesting. Anderson who was installing cable wires fell from a ladder and maintained that a surge of electricity caused him to fall. The court was not convinced of his story and did not believe that he had been impacted by electricity. He also was not wearing a safety belt which has been assigned to him. If he had been wearing the belt, even if he had been affected by electricity, he would not have fallen.

The lessons for managers of persons who be using ladders as a part of their job

– select employees carefully

– train and retrain

– provide safe ladders

– provide other required safety gear – boots, insulated gloves etc.

– conduct a pre-job brief

– supervise the job

– conduct a post-job brief to determine if there is a safer way to do the job next time.

References.

https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2022/fatal-injuries-from-ladders-down-in-2020-nonfatal-ladder-injuries-were-essentially-unchanged.htm

Posted in Safety | Tagged , | Leave a comment

WALKING THROUGH MAY PEN WITH AN OLD CELL PHONE

I treasure a Saturday morning walk. It clears the brain and distracts from the work related activities of the week. And it is great exercise. Distances range from 8 – 14 Km. This morning it was 14.1. Mid-day and late afternoon May Pen are scenes with crowds, hustle and bustle and noise.

Early morning May Pen is different. Few people – heading to work, to market or to some remittance agency. Vendors sweeping and sprinkling and setting up stall and praying that the Police will be sleeping late. Workmen gathering at the sites of the two new gas stations being constructed on Muirhead Avenue and Manchester Avenue. Street people still fast asleep in the bust stops and on the sidewalks. Women waiting – at the wholesales, at Young’s Pharmacy and at National.  

It is still quiet. The loader men have not stated shouting and the taxi men have not yet started blowing the horns. And the only noise is from the loudspeakers in the black and cream and white hearses that roll through the town, the music perhaps urging shoppers to hurry up and to go home to get ready for the funerals of the day.  

My old cell phone still does reasonable quality photos. And I can hold it still for the buildings and the signs. But for people – it is a quick snap and it hope that it was properly framed and that the image is not blurred. But many are not properly framed and you will see the shots without heads of feet – you will not see the many which are out of focus and are deleted.

These are a few composites of May Pen on the last 2 Saturday mornings.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

GOODBYE QUEEN ELIZABETH

I have known the Queen of Jamaica (Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith) all of my life. And this is the queen that I have known. I am sure she was present at my birth.

Queen Elizabeth II

Because she was everywhere. In every home, in every shop, in every bar, in every school. And on everything – on the money, on the stamps and on the spoon and cup and vase that was in the cabinet and was never used at all.

Queen Elizabeth on the pound, the truppance and a hapenny stamp

And in the room where I was born, she would have been there, on the wall looking down, with her crown and blue sash. In addition to the images, her name was called everywhere – at the Post Office, at school, at the Court Hose and at Church where we prayed for her and all of the Royal Family every Sunday. This cannot be erased from my memory.

ALMIGHTY God, the fountain of all goodness, we humbly beseech thee to bless Philip Duke of Edinburgh, Charles Prince of Wales, and all the Royal Family: Endue them with thy Holy Spirit; enrich them with thy heavenly grace; prosper them with all happiness; and bring them to thine everlasting kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

So while listening to the broadcast of her funeral on the BBC, and missing a local interpreter to explain what is equerry, who is a rating and why the commentator on the BBC is pronouncing  the word Mall as maahl, and why Camilla is being called the Kings Consort – certainly consort is a bad wud. I imagined for a while that when the PM returned her would organize a reenactment of the final journey, with a procession from Gordon Hose to National Heroes Park and with as much pomp as the ceremony he attended in England.

And I am seeing in my minds eye the procession as it gets to the top of Duke Street and with an RJR announcer who is tune with the hundreds of thousands who are listening.

Imagined parade in honor of the passing of the Queen

Parade heading to Heroes Park from the south..

Behind the leaders of the parade is the squadron of ratings of the JDF Coast Guard in their No. 1 uniforms with black arm bands. As the cortege nears the top of Duke Street, the majestic Blue Mountains appear almost as a backdrop to the day’s somber events. The music from the regimental band of the First battalion is Funeral March #1 from Beethoven.

Today is the final day of the extended official mourning for Her Majesty and this has caused some controversy as the UK declared only 10 days of mourning while Jamaica declared 12. Other countries have been conservative: India and Australia 1 day, Kenya 3 days, Canada 10 days. In addition, Australia also declared a public holiday. The Jamaican authorities have responded in a unique way. They declared that the extended period of mourning is both an expression of deep remorse at the death of Her Majesty as well as an assertion of our independence and a display of our willingness to do as we see fit. Further, in keeping with the national culture, Minister Babsy has reminded that when we have the passing of a local head of state, the response would have included:

– Official Grave Digging Ceremonies

– Nightly Celebrations

– Official Nine night to be held at King’s House. This would last from 8 pm to 8 am the following day

– Official Repast at the National Arena, and

– At least one Public Holiday

Part of the parade

The parade now takes a slight right turn at the top of Duke Street to go onto South Heroes Circle. On the left is formed a platoon of the Royal Crab Guards. They, like the Horse Guards in the UK, have been in the service of the royals for centuries and have been quietly in the service of the nation on many special occasions. One will remember the visit if HRH Princess Alice during the Independence celebrations in 1962, when she visited the then renamed George VI Memorial Park, after laying a wreath, she retreated to the western section of the Park for crab and boiled corn. Unknown to many also, was a request for President Obama to visit the crab sellers, however, it could not be accommodated on his schedule and the crabs were delivered to him instead. On these occasions, only the Royal King and Jamaica Red varieties of crab are prepared. It would be very impolite to say that the royal family is crabbit, but they certainly enjoy Jamaican crabs.

Dear listeners, you may be asking if the KFG gate which the cortege is about to enter is somehow related to KFC. The answer is no as KFG actually means King George Fling. The story is that on the visit of King George to the island, the best horses form the Royal Stables at Up Park Camp were chosen for the royal party that was to enter the park on horseback. The king was on a snow-white superb stallion and was a few lengths behind the parade commander who was on a mare. The excitement of the parade must have got to the Kings stallion who mistakenly thought it was good time to reveal his studly instincts and perhaps triggered by the horns, he attempted to jump the mare of the parade commander. Because of his rearing, His Majesty fell and were it not for the alertness and quick action of his orderly would certainly have ended up with a Royal coco on his head. For his gallantry, the orderly received an MBO – Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. In local parlance, the king was flung and hence the name King Fling Gate or KFG.

And in the park which has been properly manicured and the homeless persons relocated, we can see other troop formations of the JDF. To the north are the infantry units who in a few minutes will start licking some shot for the dearly departed majesty, by offering a 21-gun salute with firing at 1-minute intervals.

Nearer to the Cenotaph, there are the Cavalry platoons all mounted on well-groomed and decorated horses. HRH Elizabeth was certainly a lover of animals and a patron of many animal care societies. She cared a lot for her canines and the royal doggies were a part of all events at the palace.  She was an avid rider and lover of equines and her favorite pony was a part of the guard at Buckingham Palace for the passage of her coffin. The queen however did not have an equal love for felines and there were no royal pussies around the palace.

But that was all a dream, and it fought hard against another dream. The same parade, the same route with the same purpose. But in the other dream, the Royal Family decided that the queen was to be interred in Heroes Park and Brite Lite was in charge of the funeral arrangements. So in addition to the formal military parade and the official mourners, there were 4 hearses with music, 3 trailers equipped as music trucks a and 500 girls with short shorts and pom poms, and an entire battalion of juice man and nuts man and everyone who came got a vuvuzela…

Wake Up!

Goodbye my Queen. You played your hand well. Please do not feel too bad when we shub out Charles as the head of state – you must understand that after all these years, we could never do that to you, but we don’t really like Charles. And find it in you heart to forgive two other transgressions.

1. When you come we always sing – Long Time Gal We Never See You! Don’t feel no way – That gal is the Royal Gal, not the gal like a skettel  or trouble maker.

2. You have some people who parody God Save Our Gracious Queen. Dem never mean to embarrass you when dem rhyme queen with dasheen and figurine. Please find it in your royal heart to forgive them.

With Nuff Respect, I take my leave.

Ave atque vale

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Trail Opening in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica

Conliffe Wilmot-Simpson

June 4, 2022

Section of the Grand Ridge of the Blue Mountains Jamaica

Introduction:
The trails of reference are in the mountainous eastern quarter of the island. In current usage, Grand Ridge of the Blue Mountains refers to a series of interconnected peaks that trend roughly from Candelfly Peak 1505m in the southeast to John Crow Peak at 1762 m in the northwest. The highest point on the Ridge, the Blue Mountain Peak is at 2256m. In the past, the western boundary of the Grand Ridge was extended across the Buff Bay Valley to terminate in Mt Telegraph (1300m) near to the Wagwater River Valley.

The topography has determined the patterns of settlement, land use and communication. Rivers tend to flow from the ridge to the north and south (see map). The terrain is quite rugged at higher elevations. Vegetation is mainly primary tropical rain forest at higher elevations and degraded forest and agriculture at lower elevations. Major crossings of the mountain ridge are (a) The Junction Road that follows the Wagwater River Valley and (b) the Newcastle to Buff Bay crossing which follows the Buff Bay River Valley. A major coastal road that links north and south sides. Both on the north and south, there are minor roads that connect the villages on the slopes, but there is no major east to west roadway. Settlements tends to be associated with the lower reaches of the various river valleys. Large sections of the mountains that are now a part of the Blue and John Crow Mountain Nation Park are not settled. Main activity in some of these areas are farming and hunting.

Map of eastern Jamaica

History of Occupation.

Earliest occupiers of the island were the Taino tribes from about 650 AD. Although largely thought to be coastal dwellers, there is nothing to suggest that they did not explore the mountains of the island. Artifacts left in may caves across the island show that they ranged far from the coast. By the arrival of Columbus, there were over 200 Taino villages in Jamaica. The records indicates that enslavement of the Tainos for work on Spanish Plantations did not go as planned. Many died and others ran away. The Blue Mountains were one such refuge area. The Spanish then imported Africans. Many ran away and either joined Tainos in the mountains or set up villages of their own. It is believed that during this period, while the colonial authorities and settlers developed the main communication paths on the island, there was a parallel development of mainly secretive mountainous trails that were used by Tianos and Maroons. These became important as outright guerrilla war was fought between the British and the maroons for long periods. The battle fields were often the mountains and valleys of eastern Jamaica and the legends have it that one the main advantage of the maroons was their intimate knowledge of the interior which not only allowed them to flee quickly, but to set up ambush points for the British army formations. These wars. ceased with the signing of various treaties some of which are topical today.

Upper Yallahs River Valley

Road and Trail Development

We can therefore paint of picture of the immediate post slavery communication system of the island as

  1. Main network of roadways linking major towns
  2. Subsidiary network of parochial and minor roads and bridle paths that facilitated rural development, internal trade and agriculture
  3. Routes of mountain trails mainly used by maroon villages and by other persons who were moving to occupy lands in remote interior areas.

Whilst A and B would have been official growth areas, perhaps less emphasis would have been placed on C. My speculation is that trail use probably subsided and in the period 1850 to 1950 much of the activity that would have kept trails open were:

  • Topographic surveys. There are details of surveys along the grand ridge of the Blue Mountains and the slopes to the north and south
  • Naturalists and Botanical research. The establishment on the southern slopes of the Cinchona Botanical gardens in 1868 may have been a catalyst for visits to the area for many naturalists including persons form the Smithsonian Institute.
  • Geological surveys. During the 1860, pioneering geologists such as Barrett and Sawkins would have travelled extensively through the eastern mountains. Geological surveys are ongoing. I was introduced to the Blue Mountains by my high school Geology teacher, an Australian who spent months in the Back Rio Grande in the early 1970s, while working for Anaconda looking for copper and other metals.
  • Local community use. Trails were used by the local dwellers for access to fields, for hunting of wild hogs, for reaping forest products or for “shortcuts” between distant communities. The Vinegar Hill trail (approx. 15 Km) for instance was used to move between Claverty Cottage in the north and Westphalia in the south and there was much trading and intermarriages between the villages.
View to the north from Mossmans Peak area

Decline in Trail Use and Trail Maintenance

Except for the trail from Farm Hill Gap to the Blue Mountain Peak, there appears to have been a general neglect and decline in use of many of the other mountain trails in the last 50 years. Some contributing factors include

Administrative Factors

Trails and their use are often closely related to other activities in their locale. Some examples are

  • Decline in structured rural development programs:
  • Decline in municipal involvement in bridle path maintenance
  • Decline in mainstream Forestry Department activities
  • Changing population settlement patterns and migration to cities

These by themselves or combined, would lead to lack of emphasis in trails.

Natural Factors

  1. Trails need maintenance. With decline in utilization, it is likely that the required bushing and drain clearing would not be done and a trail could easily become overgrown or unsafe, which would lead to a further reduction in their use
  2. Hurricane damage. Hurricanes damage trails in a variety of ways. Trails can become blocked by falling trees, damage to vegetation can lead to barren slopes which then erode very quickly, excessive rainfall can trigger rock and soil slippages which can block or obscure trails.
  3. Trails under a forest canopy can usually be located with little difficulty even if rarely used. Often areas which have original vegetation compromised by hurricanes, become vulnerable to rapid occupation by invasive species. These are usually very hardly, easily self-propagating and fast growing and can either completely block or obscure a trail.

Current Activities

The current Trail Project activities are multifaceted and include many aspects. They are being undertaken under the auspices of the JCDT. They are not listed in any priority order. They include:

MCOT

A master catalog of trails is being developed and maintained, that will have current data on the location, length, difficulty level, cultural highlights and other aspects of the trails. This will have relevance to the marketing and promotion efforts, as well as guide the required development and maintenance of the trails.

Clearing/Reopening of Trails

Trails are in various conditions. There is a priority listing of trails to be cleared and reopened. One active effort is the Morces Gap to Portland Gap via Sir Johns Peak Trail reopening which should be completed in 2022. This will allow clear access to large sections of the Grand Ridge and provide other options for multiple day long hikes in the area. To date, activity on this leg has included:

  • August 2021. Hiking west from Portland Gap in the direction of Sir Johns Peak. We get as far as Speculation River that is fairly close to High peak. Hike began and terminated at Portland Gap.
  • February 2022. Hiking east from the Cinchona, going past Bellevue Peak and Sir Johns Peak and stopping just short of High Peak. Much of the trail was bushed over and it was total obscured in places. Hike began and terminated at Cinchona.
  • Next Phase: Planned for August 2022 will be through hike to close the gap between High Peak and Speculation River.

Current trail activities

Other clearing opportunities include:

– Clydesdale to Morces Gap route which will add more diversification to the trail options by opening a Clydesdale to Morces Gap to Cinchona to Clydesdale Loop trail. Some work was done on this in March 2021.

– There is also a Portland Gap to Swift River Bridle path which was active up to the mid-1980s, that could be reopened and integrated into the current trail offerings.

– There is drone footage of a magnificent waterfall along the Mabess River. There are rudiments of a trail, but this also is an opportunity to design and clear a proper trail to the waterfall.

Development of New Trails Options

Many sections to the east of Portland Gap are poorly explored. While there have been very occasional forays to the north and east to the areas of Nanny Town, there are vast expanses of mountains of which little is known. Options include new trails both to the north and south as well as trails which could intersect the Cuna Cuna trail to the east. A trail going east from Portland Gap into the Rio Grande Valley, would allow the development of a  4 day trip which could originate in Port Antonio, and involve hiking the Vinegar Hill trail, Morces Gap to  Blue Mountain Peak, Portland Gap to Moore Town and return to Port Antonio via the Rio Grande Valley.

Development of Trail Management Expertise

A training plan is to be developed to ensure that the learnings by Park Rangers and Volunteers involved in trail development activities is retained within the organization and that there is some continuity of personnel development in this area. Current options include online conferences, MOOCS and local training days. Visits to Jamaica by overseas experts and working visits to US sites by Jamaicans will be a useful addition to the efforts.

Promotion of Trails

A Jamaica Blue Mountain Trails Website will be a part of the effort to promote trail project activities. Visitors will be able to get current MCOT information and will be able to make informed decisions about trail options. 

Community Engagement

The public and visitors to the island will be the major beneficiaries of the success of the trail project. The JCDT will enhance its image and will also be a beneficiary of the additional National Park user fees that the project expects to generate. The local community in trail areas are also expected to be major beneficiaries and will earn incomes through provision of guide and porter services, lodging (where applicable), sale of food and sales of cultural artifacts from their areas.

There is almost always a spectacular rainbow at Cinchona
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

GANNA’S BURDEN

A short story that was published in Caribbean Beat in 2000.

Ganna’s Burden

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

SEEING SAFETY THROUGH NEW EYES IN 2022 PART B RIDING IN THE BACKOF PICKUP AND OTHER TRUCKS

Three children in the back of a pickup truck

Introduction

Riding in the back of a pickup truck is nothing unusual all over Jamaica. In fact, riding in the back of a dump truck, or on a flatbed trailer is not unusual either. Despite some vague awareness that the practice may be dangerous, we have become so accustomed to it, that we hardly give second thought to the hazard or to the sometimes-easy and safer options that may be available. We have disconnected the hazard from the consequences and suppressed the knowledge that the back of a pickup is not a space for carrying people. In December 2008, 14 persons perished when a market truck on the way to the Coronation market in Kingston, plunged into a gully at Dam Bridge in the lower Rio Grande Valley. The outcome could have been different if the goods had travelled by truck and the humans by bus.

Passengers on the way to and from work

For the average citizen, this may be an accepted way to travel. However, industry seems to have also become comfortable with this travel mode. Not only can you see persons travelling to and from work in the back of marked company vehicles, but it is common practice to see persons seated on specialist equipment such as asphalt distribution trucks, water trucks or concrete pumping trucks. Some of these persons are not on seats, while others are seen on highways at normal travel speeds on seats designed for low speed or stationary operations.

The trucking of building materials, dry goods, furniture and other items is often done with one or more passengers on the back of the vehicle. The latest to have joined the party all over the island are the Police, who are combining many persons in the back of Hilux type pickups with often erratic high-speed driving.

Passengers on trucks. In the case of the water truck, there is no seat. On the other two units, the operator seat was not intended to be used for highway travel

The Dangers

I would like to describe what can go wrong by using two firsthand accounts.

1. Many years ago, I was driving to Port Royal and came upon a JDF Land Rover which had a canvas covering for the bed and which got out of control and overturned a few minutes earlier. I am looking at the photos, but they are much too graphic for this article. All occupants of the bed who were members of the Coast Guard were ejected and one occupant who obviously fell on his head was dead. Others were scattered all over the roadway. On December 27, 2016, another JDF soldier was killed and three others seriously injured in a rollover of a Land Cruiser near to Cousins Cove In Hanover. Photos showed obvious ejection.

2. One early morning one the Cave Valley to Aenon Town main road we came across a pickup that had been hit head on by a Confidence country bus around a blind corned. No one in the bus was injured, but there were two men who were sitting on the floor of the pickup and facing its rear, whose heads and slammed against the cab, and who despite not showing any external injury, were dead. They had not been ejected.

Passengers in the bed of pickup and light trucks

The dangers are obvious.

1. Given that there is no proper seating and no proper restraining system, there is the possibility of someone falling from the vehicle during normal driving. The consequences of such a fall would depend on the situation are almost unpredictable but unlikely to be favorable. On March 15, of this year a man fell from a Coaster bus on Highway 2000 and was then immediately run over by another bus.

2. A person could fall from the vehicle or suffer injury by way of forceful contact with the body of the vehicle during a sharp maneuver or in the event of contact with another vehicle. Again, the consequence would be dependent on the situation.

3. A person could be ejected from the vehicle in the event of contact with another vehicle or in the case of a rollover. The consequences of a high-speed ejection could be severe or fatal.

For persons in Construction and other industries, what can you do?

Is you site short of personnel carriers? Do you have surveyors, laborers and other persons routinely travelling in the back of pickup trucks? Is you backhoe sometimes used as a bus?

1. Communicate. Acknowledge the risk and share the information with your employees. You may not be able to fix the problem immediately, but awareness will affect the response to the risk. For example:

 A. drivers could adjust their style of driving

B. drivers could adjust their speed

C. passengers could utilize all the available seats before going into the bed.

Passenger behind the cab of Shacman water truck

D. drivers should be discouraged from “giving rides” to persons not connected to the company. This act of kindness can have terrible liability consequences.

E. Drivers should encourage passengers to behave responsibly. In the photo below, the driver is totally unconcerned that his passenger in the back of the truck is sleeping.

Passenger sleeping on the back of a light truck

2. Reduce the exposure to the risk by providing seats as soon as possible. In the short term this may include renting a small bus or other suitable vehicle. Moving passengers by backhoes, loaders or other single seat equipment is not a safe option.

Passengers on the side of a backhoe

3. Plan for your next project. Movement of persons to difficult to access sites and movement of persons on the site should be an integral part of project planning. Total labor on site and their need to move (beyond short walking distances) will be different for different phases of the project. Double cab pickups which can seat up to 5 persons or Hiace sized buses which can seat up to 14 persons are suitable options. Both units can also be very useful in material movement on the site. A bus for instance can not only be used to move potable water containers, food or individuals, but can be used to move small tools, surveying equipment, small quantities of packaged building materials, and other items which need protection from the elements during transport. If equipped with 4-wheel drive, they can be of much assistance on unpaved or muddy site roads.

4. Review you current operating systems to look for obvious exposures to risk that may not have been apparent. For example, the pump attendant has always travelled on the operator seat of the concrete pumper truck when it is being sent to a site. This is neither important or necessary but has grown up a custom and practice.

5. Develop and deploy safety rules, train employees, and develop strategies to ensure conformance to the safety rules which prohibit travelling in the back of pickup trucks. In the event of a major injury and one that will require long term support and care for an injured party, even a novice attorney will be able to persuade the court that as an employer you did not provide Safe System of Work by having your employee travel in the back of a pickup truck. You could be looking at a J$100 million judgement and perhaps an insurance coverage of $7 million. Can you survive a $93 million payout?

Typical construction site images

PROLOGUE

Perhaps the most important personal task for all of us is to change our behavior and to try to influence others do the same. No matter how tempting the invitation is to ride in the back of the Hilux to the beach, it should be resisted. It may look difficult to give up the offer of a ride to church or school, but the risks are too great.

Getting a ride to church

Try to get the message across, that either sitting on a barrel coming from the port or on top of the load on a slow-moving delivery truck, you are severely exposed.

Protect yourself. Protect your family. Protect you associates.  And if you do expose yourself to the risk, be extremely alert and be prepared to respond in the event of danger. It is not good enough to partially restrain the donkey and then put yourself in the line of fire to be crushed by him in the event of a sudden stopping of the vehicle.

Donkey is restrained, man is not.

Conliffe Wilmot-Simpson

May 23, 2022

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

REMEMBERING BARBARA GLOUDON

I’ve known Munchie for all of 22 years. We worked together for 10. We speak to each other once every few months, the calls usually initiated by her. So, when I saw her name on the screen early on Thursday, I expected the call to begin like many others – a reprimand for not calling her, but she got straight to the point. Mrs. Gloudon died. No Munchie I replied, her husband died last week. Wilmot she said tersely, Mrs. Gloudon died this morning. I can’t recall how the call with Munchie ended, probably with my usual promise to call her soon and she with the usual retort of Right, knowing that it will probably be 6 months before she calls again.

Sharon Nembhard titled her tribute to Mrs. Gloudon: She Changed My Life. I shared a York Castle High School form with Sharon, and until I read her post had no idea that she was involved with the LTM at all. I know she will not mind if I copy that expression as Mrs. G also changed my life. It all began one day working at the JBI and listening to Hotline and hearing a lady bent out of shape by what she thought was Mrs. Gloudon monopolizing the scripting of the annual pantomime. Mrs. G calmly explained the process of script selection and invited the lady and indeed all literate Jamaican to submit scripts and promised that they would be evaluated fairly and if they had merit, there would be a good chance of them seeing life on stage. I took that as a personal invitation and with my knowledge of Shakespeare from high school and fresh memory from some roots plays – set to work. Two months and 150 pages later I delivered a script to the LTM office. In my mind, that script was a winner and could outcompete any other for the next production.

Two weeks passed and I was summoned and appeared in the office of Mrs G. Her desk and the shelves were filled with books and papers, wall covered entirely with photos and clippings and all sort of objects occupied her space.  We started talking about me and soon we were settled into a lively conversation about the Anglican church where I had been an altar server and bell ringer. She was excited that I knew about Synod, was conformed by Bishop Gibson, and despite my background of service and my father serving as a lay preacher any my mother in the Mothers Union, that I appeared to be wayward, and was not a current member of any congregation.

Then we got down to business. She thanked me for my submission which she said was interesting and showed promise. Then she explained why it would not fit the pantomime genre and politely handed it back to me. It could have ended there, but it did not. She said to me, If you are willing, I would like you to work along with me, and I could guide you along this panto road, so that in time, you could do this all by yourself. I did not take a second to agree and so began an unforgettable journey. We met two evening per week, and I would walk in with 5 pages and after review, it would end up at a page or a page and a half at best. She was master of cut and paste and had scissors and glue at hand. Everything was explained and I often what I wrote was cut into pieces and reorganized before the critical editing The scissors and glue were applied liberally to her work as well. I started to understand and gradually more pages survived.

The schooling never stopped. She was very patient but also very exacting. I got an assignment to write a song and produced lines that I was sure would be a hit. She said, Youngster, you have produced a poem – this is meant for recitation, but it will not make it as a song. She asked me to tell her the first line of the national anthem. I replied Eternal Father bless our land. She invited me to join her in singing the line. We both went Eeeteeaarrnal Faaather bleeess ooouur laaand. She did not need to explain any more so off I went, and returned a few days later with a song which although requiring fixing, was not intended for choral speaking. I eventually participated in the production of scripts for Anansi Web and Jack and the Macca Tree.

The relationship of Mrs G and the LTM family is the stuff of legends. She was undoubtedly the captain of the ship and in some ways ruled with an iron hand. But in many respects, it was a part of the show that was running offstage and there was a lot of love involved. The energy and exuberance of the cast often caused the rules to bend all to good effect. One cardinal rule was that the cast was never to mess with the script. So, if you wanted to do that, you had to wait for an evening when the show was on and Mrs G was back (confirmed) in Gordon Town before you tried a thing. She believed in order and good governance. But things could change. If there was a difficulty, there would be a discussion and the change made in time for the next show. Opening night of Jack and the Macca Tree went well except for the opening scene when the 10 ft tall knee to ankle and toes of the giant was revealed, and a little boy in the front row decided that he was taking no chances with such a large creature and screamed and ran down the aisle and straight through the doors of the Ward Theatre with his father trailing behind him onto north parade. The scene was fixed for the next night.

She cared for her audience, especially the countrybus loads of students and teachers who would be travelling from deep in the Rio Grade valley, from Irons Mountain in St. Ann, from Adelphi in St. James or from Darliston in Westmoreland. And she understood that the dynamics – the sacrifices that parents made to get their children on the trip, the worry for the safety of the children (Mass Joe was a good driver but coming from Kingston at midnight in a bus that was not so reliable, was very serious business) and the fact that they would not be in bed, but would be gathered at the school yard in the night cold and would have no peace until they saw the lights and heard the engine of the bus laboring back to the district. So one night at curtain time, there was a power cut, with 10 country buses in the parking lot. It was not simply a matter of offering refunds as the children would be very unlikely to be able to afford to return. There was waiting until the power returned, the show started late and everybody was happy.

She fought her battles with finesse. I remember a very long and tense discussion between her and Grub Cooper about how to end a finale. The options were to end loud and strong on high notes or to end very softly and almost fade into silence. The debate had several rounds and after each break, both Grub and Mrs. G would walk around. Supporters would quietly support, but no one got involved in this faceoff between giants. I can’t remember who yielded, but a compromise was reached, and the rehearsal went on as if nothing had happened.

She had a super memory and could recall with great clarity things from decades past, as if they happened yesterday. There were evening in her office when she would pour out her soul  in a long soliloquy on matters of the Anglican church, politics, culture or what the future held for the young of Jamaica.. She was not soliciting a debate but wanted an assurance that you would think about the things that she said. Whether in the theatre or on the road, she had the same effusive personality. Whether we met when she took August Mawning to Mandeville or at Calabash it was always a heartfelt – happy to see you, hope the family is well. A Calabash memory: My son was a baby when I became involved with the LTM and at probably his first introduction to Mrs. G all that she got from his babble was Baah. So in her book he became Baah. Years later we met at Calabash and my son was very puzzled by this very friendly lady who obviously knew him, but who insisted on calling him Baah.

I benefited tremendously from her guidance and support. She had a great generosity of spirit and was an inspiration to so many. My mentor, coach and friend, walk good.  I will miss you. For those of us who are travelling behind, I would like to share the very last paragraph of the Bridge of San Luis Rye by Thornton Wilder.

“We ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

PLACING A GIRDER ON THE NEW RIO MINHO BRIDGE

A girder is a support beam used in construction. It is the main horizontal support of a structure which supports smaller beams. Girders often have an I-beam cross section composed of two load-bearing flanges separated by a stabilizing web, but may also have a box shape, Z shape, or other forms. Girders are commonly used to build bridges.

A Chinese construction contractor CHEC has been constructing a new bridge over the Rio Minho River as a part of the May Pen to Williamsfield Toll Road Development Project. Work started in January 2021. I go past the site on foot once a week as a part of my exercise routine and have been taking photos of the works since February 2021. Some are highlighted in my post Mystery of the Secret Death and Burial of the Original Foundations. https://pattyandcocobread.wordpress.com/2021/12/25/cover-up-on-the-west-bank/

Today I was able to see a girder being placed and took photographs. The process is quite interesting. I am not an engineer and could only interpret what I saw through layman eyes. The first photo is from earlier and shows the span of the river and the number of girders required. The unit placed today was in the section numbered 4.

Girder is away from the loading frame
Carriers which ride on tracks on top of the frame are positioned to grab the girder
In the meantime, the girder which is on a trolley, is pushed under the frame.
The leading edge of the girder is chained to the first carrier which lifts it clear of the trolley and drags it forward.
The girder is positioned under the frame.
The trailing end of the girder is chained to the second carrier which lifts it clear of the trolley and assists with moving the girder forward
The girder is carefully positioned.
And then lowered.

The operation appeared to be slow, but the girder was connected, moved and placed in 34 minutes.

Conliffe April 17, 2022.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

NEW SOUTH KOREAN HEALTH AND SAFETY LEGISLATION – LESSONS FOR JAMAICA

Conliffe Wilmot-Simpson, January 2022

Can you imagine Senator Don Wehby being arrested and held at the Central Police Station following a serious accident at a Grace Food Processing facility? or

Can you imagine Peter McConnell being arrested and held at the Linstead Police Station following a serious accident at a Trade Winds Citrus facility?

On January 27, 2022, a new Safety Law, will take effect in South Korea – the Serious Accident Punishment Act- SAPA. In contrast to previous laws which had fines for companies, the SAPA imposes penalties directly on the owners and CEOs of companies where breaches of legislation cause injury or death. Executives may be subjected to large fines as well as terms of imprisonment.

Near to the implementation date, there has been much lobbying for clarifications and modification to the Act. Businesses and Trade lobbies have been pointing to several issues – probably due to its speedy enactment, which could be problematic later. Three examples of these are:

  • Definition of appropriate funds. The law stipulates that organizations must spend appropriate funds on training, equipment, and safety systems to prevent accidents. Lobbyists think this term is too vague and will leave persons very exposed when cases are brought before the courts.
  • Definition of responsible executive. The buck will stop with the responsible executive. In a large organization, there may be many persons who are “responsible” and again the lobbyists are seeking clarity. From my perspective, the intent of the law is not to punish the safety officer or safety manager or even factory manager. It aims at the very top of the organization, where the ultimate safety policies are approved and funding for safety allocated.
  • Interpretation of the law itself. In the Act, the responsible executive is defined as (i) a “person authorized and responsible for representing and supervising a business, or (ii) a comparable individual who is responsible for safety and health matters of a business.” Many lawyers will be excited by this terminology. If the OR is exclusive, it means that only one person can be charged. If the OR is inclusive, it means that multiple persons may be caught in the legal net.

SOME BACKGROUND TO THE NEW ACT.

1. Fatality Rates in South Korea. Incident and fatality rates in South Korea are relatively high. Below is a plot of the total fatalities for the period 2014 to 2021.

South Korean Fatality Data

The fatality rate for 2021 was 4.3 per 100,000 employees. (The Korean workforce is 19 million. Number of fatalities in 2021 was 828. The rate is calculated as 828 x 100,000/19,000,000). For comparison, the European Union, overall rate is 1.5 persons per 100,000 employees. The Korean rates have been generally trending downward and was over 15.5 employees per 100,000 before 2010.

2. Death of Kim Yong-Kyun. Kim was a 24-year-old temporary subcontracted employee of the Korean Western Power Company who was trapped and pulled into a high-speed coal conveyor while working alone and cleaning coal from udder the conveyor on the night shift. He was the 15th worker to die at the same plant in 10 years. His death was widely reported and drew much public outcry for a long period. There were public protests in Seoul. A newly formed group, “Civil Society Coalition for Justice for Precarious Young Worker Kim Yong-Kyun” staged a hunger strike.

People march through Seoul to honor a worker crushed to death at a coal plant. Photo: AFP

After a week of public outcries and protests, the National Assembly passed an amendment to the Industrial Safety Act. The amendment bans corporations from subcontracting 22 types of high-risk job and require contractors to compensate US$1.2 million for the on-the-job death of a contract worker. The government also committed to a revision of the Occupational Safety and Health Act for the first time in 30 years.

Still on the minds of many South Koreans, was the tragedy of the sinking of the ferry Sewol, in April 2014, when 304 persons, mainly children were killed. In that case, the captain, Lee Joon-seok was sentenced to 36 years in jail for gross negligence. Many other crew members were also jailed. The owner of the vessel Yoo Byung-eun absconded and his body was discovered months later but the cause of his death was not determined.

The family of Kim continued to keep the issue alive. A memorial monument is to be erected at the head office of the Korean Western Power Company. Commenting on this, his family stated, “With this memorial to the late Kim Yong-kyun, we wish that our society can become one that presumes that industrial hazards are murder, that safety is life, that we must put an end to more dangerous non-regular positions, and that protecting the lives of the workers is the obligation of the company.”

Given the public pressure and the demands for action, the government had no choice but to speedily draft and enact the SAPA.

SOME FEATURES OF THE SERIOUS ACCIDENT PUNISHMENT ACT (SAPA)

1. The definition and scope of Serious Accident.

A serious accident is one in which one or more people die; or where ten or more people are injured, resulting in treatment for two months or more.

The definition is not for mining and construction only but applies widely to applies to production, manufacture, sale and distribution of goods and accidents caused by defects in the design of products.  

The law applies whether those impacted are direct employees or subcontractors or persons not working in the undertaking at all.

2. Penalties

Criminal penalties will be applicable where it is determined that an accident was caused by the actions or inactions of the leadership of the business.

If a serious accident is caused by negligence and violations of health and safety guidelines, the responsible executive or owner of the business owner may face criminal penalties such as:

A. For one or more deaths – a minimum of one year imprisonment or a fine of up to US$840,000 (J$130 M).

B. For ten or more persons injured and needing two or more months of treatment – up seven years in imprisonment or a fine of up to US$84,800 (J$12.9 M).

The following penalties apply to the corporation. 

A. For death of one or more people – a fine of up to US$4,189,746 (J$650 M).

B. For other serious accidents – a fine of up to US$84,800 (J$12.9 M).

The SAPA will not affect or negate any class action claims which may be brought against employers by affected persons.

LESSONS FOR JAMAICA

1. Newton’s Laws of Motion apply in the legal and sociological world as well. Nothing will change in our OSH landscape while our Jamaican Occupational Safety and Health Act, 2017 continues to languish and falter in a maze of bureaucracy. 

2. If nothing is happening, the workforce is still fully exposed to the many issues that the legislation is intended to address.

3. There is no shortage of models of OSH Legislation worldwide that we can examine, to get speedily over the various obstacles that our Act seem to be facing. The South Koreans did not try to invent the wheel and drew on the UK’s Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Acts to assist their process.

4. Other countries have acted to protect their citizens – we have no excuse to be waiting.

5. We should not wait until there is a major catastrophic event and accompanying public outrage for us to be energized to act to make a difference. The time is now.

6. Efforts to force the law through the legislative process in response to public unrest, may well result in a final product which is plagued with errors and ambiguities.

REFERENCES

1. Challengeable legislation against fatal occupational accidents in Korea, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2093791122000051

2. Thousands of South Koreans mourn tragic death of coal worker sucked into conveyor belt https://www.scmp.com/news/asia/east-asia/article/2185555/thousands-south-koreans-mourn-tragic-death-coal-worker-sucked

3. Industrial Hazards are Murder …. http://english.khan.co.kr/khan_art_view.html?artid=202011111626187&code=940702

4. What is Corporate Manslaughter and How Does it Work? https://peoplesafe.co.uk/resources/blogs/what-is-corporate-manslaughter-and-how-does-it-work/

5. Sewol Sinking: South Korea’s Ferry Disaster.  https://safety4sea.com/cm-sewol-sinking-south-koreas-ferry-disaster/

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment