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The shock of a return to school

As a former secondary school teacher and assistant principal, Pat Russell is used to dealing with teenagers. Now she’s dealing with men aged 50 years in her classroom and they are finding it a massive shock to return.

Based in Runanga, Pat is training manager with Mines Rescue, helping people through their A and B COC renewals. She travels around the country and sees the same issue everywhere.

“A huge step up is required to get the COCs. But you do get through it.”

Pat provides every possible support to her students, even providing coaching at her home at weekends. “I understand how terrifying it is for some.”

Inability to read and write at a high level is not unusual. One man had to get his wife to write his papers. Also supported by Pat, he had now gone from a B certificate to an A COC in three years.

Readers/writers can be accessed by anyone dealing with literacy issues.

Mike Higgins told of one of his staff with 16 years’ experience who, with literacy support, had gone from being reluctantly required to undertake training, to now wanting to have a go.

Pat said another part of the challenge is getting people past a belief that they can shortcut the process.

“If you want real change, you must understand it all. Don’t look for that tick and flick.”

She says part of her motivation is hearing about the ongoing health and safety issues.

“I hear absolute horror stories about what’s going on even now on worksites where the guys are being put at risk.”

She reminded the Ashburton audience that a cost like $20,000 to fix a piece of equipment can sound a lot until it’s put alongside the cost of an injury or fatality.

“People put their lives on the line every day to work for you.”

Union representative John Gardner from EPMU said good regulations were the friend of good employers. “We are with employers unless you’re a bad employer.”

A sense of pride could be created in a worksite with a nil accident record.

“I know more people who have died in workplaces than from road deaths.” He also knew a man who was left a tetraplegic after the rolling of his lime truck.

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