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Snowy Hydro – Sound and Safe (1963)


Produced in 1963 by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electricity Authority (SMHEA) photographic unit (Harry Malcolm et al.), the film lays out safety procedures for hard rock tunnelling.

Curator’s notes

This is one of the many films produced by the SMHEA film unit for the Snowy Mountains Joint Safety and Rehabilitation Council. Produced in 1963, it focuses on safety in 'drill and blast’ tunnelling on the Snowy Mountains Scheme.

Over the entire period of the Snowy Mountains Scheme, 121 workers lost their lives. While the number seems high, the Scheme performed better than its overseas counterparts. The safety target in the US at the time was no more than one fatality per mile of tunnelling. This was improved on by the Scheme, with an average underground death rate of 0.6 per mile of tunnelling.

Today, civil engineering work is significantly safer. To compare – there were no fatalities in the construction of the Bullocks Flat to Blue Cow (Perisher) Ski Tube between 1984 and 1988. A large section of that tunnel was excavated using a tunnel-boring machine, with only 2.8km excavated using traditional drill and blast methods.