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  • Holger Dielenberg

This machine can maim!

Ouch! And it’s for this reason that we’re not seeing more makerspaces popping up that provide industry standard equipment to creative people.

Supporting design entrepreneurs stimulates big ideas. A lack of equipment and fabrication space leads the artisan into a creative desert. Like many makers and innovators, these were the kinds of thoughts that whirled through my mind for years while I made do with small hand tools in random backyards or sheds.

Providing emerging design entrepreneurs with access to equipment and space to create is pretty much the best you can do to support the potential that lurks within. There are numerous warehouse studio solutions that provide creative people with space to generate visual art but there a very few that supply machinery, technology and space to build large sculpture and design objects. But when you declare a need to make noise, dust or smells in order to bring your vision to life, you get politely shunned and shown the door.

There is nothing more amazing than seeing someone use a daunting piece of machinery to fashion something beautiful. It's even more amazing when that person turns this activity into a viable business, and soon begins to employ others. So why are we not seeing more of these types of ‘makerspace’ studios on the Australian radar?

The answer is twofold. Firstly, the cost of purchasing and supplying the use of industrial machinery and technology to the creative public is prohibitive but a more sinister hurdle is the public liability risk of allowing the use of said equipment. It has been described to me by lawyer types, that my dream of building a makerspace for members to use on a DIY basis is like entering a field of litigious landmines all primed to explode under your feet.

The nanny society where nobody wants to be held accountable for their own actions has led us toward a stalemate when it comes to providing in-house studio machinery and equipment to creative artisans. Most will say, if they are not employed, they cannot be covered.

Actually, there are a few legal models that can be adopted and each has its pros and cons. However as any canny lawyer worth they’re salt will immediately point out, no single legal framework is blessed with impunity from someone willing to sue. This risk, however big or small is one of the main deterrents that keeps DIY access to machinery and technology out of creative people’s hands.

When you build things, creativity is always at the cost of safety. But it is possible to provide a safe work and risk managed environment whereby creative people can have access to dangerous machinery and technology. Such an environment can only operate when everybody is responsible for their actions and for safety in the work place. And it is possible to put the appropriate legal procedures in place that minimise litigious risk to an acceptable level.

Car rental contracts are the closest example of a legal framework that govern the provision by a company of a dangerous vehicle to a private person who will operate the vehicle, at their own risk. It is possible to merge such a liability waiver with an OH+S induction procedure and risk mitigation methodology.

At Space Tank we have worked with solicitors, lawyers, work safe consultants and machine technicians to create an operating framework that keeps everyone safe and legally protected.

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