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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 12 (April 1, 1930)


Most modern undertakings have come to the realisation that the employer is not solely concerned with labour in the objective sense. Buying labour is expensive, and, if only on that account, it is necessary that care should be exercised in conserving it as far as possible. It is evident that the American factory which provides a hospital and a dental surgery for its employees balances the costs of doctor, nurse, dentist and equipment, against loss of time on medical or dental scores. It “pays,” obviously, or else it would have been discarded long since.

Considering the matter without succumbing to sentimental weakness, the works manager realises that medical attention is better “on tap” than “just round the corner.” The worker, of course, learns to regard the work's medical assistance as an integral part of the factory—something upon which he can pin his faith. These two aspects are complementary.

At present, the Railway Workshops in New Zealand are evolving what is, I believe, a better system than that in some American shops. Take, for example, the history of the “medical” side of the Department's Workshops at Otahuhu. It is rather interesting. Until quite recently skilled attention for cuts, bruises and minor accidents, was not always available. A co-operative movement was, therefore, initiated, to increase the membership of the St. John's Ambulance Association. The aim was to reach sufficient numbers so that one man could be on duty each day at the “first aid” room. The result is highly encouraging. To-day there is an enthusiasm for first aid work in the shops which is finding expression through a full strength, well organised division of “St. John's.” The room records a “log” well worth inspection. The equipment is excellent, while the underlying principle of “service-in-aid” is already becoming firmly established.

The complementary aspects referred to earlier are acknowledged without quibble. The thoughtful man, however, will see that there is a tremendous social gain, because efficient service at the shops entails a working knowledge of given principles which are not esoteric, as in the case of a doctor. Workshop knowledge is carried out into society. The realisation that major cases could not be treated satisfactorily in the small quarters at present available, led some of the more enterprising men to conclude an arrangement with a local medico whereby suitable, immediate attention was obtained for employees. The next goal is, I am informed, a fully equipped ambulance, to keep contact with the hospital. At risk of labouring the point the line of thought brought to bear is interesting. “If we wish to take a case to hospital,” said the manager, “it takes forty minutes. With our own ambulance we could cut the time in half.” This thorough probing of executive matters is part of the function of the Division upon which all shops in the works are represented.