The National Safety Council of Australia (NSCA) is a non-government, not-for-profit, membership based occupational health and safety service provider. It offers training, consulting, auditing and risk management solutions. NSCA was established in Victoria in 1927 and for much of its history was a volunteer organisation focused primarily on accident prevention.

It was originally an initiative of the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (RACV) to reduce road accidents, but was expanded to incorporate all types of public safety at work, on the road and in the home. The primary focus was initially on road, sea and industrial safety.

Dramatic colour image of man being electrocuted when a crane hits power lines.

Keep clearH81.109/14

From 1982 the organisation began focusing on the consequences of accidents, including accident investigations and industrial rescue operations. At its peak in 1989 NCSA employed 430 people with an annual budget of $90 million. They accumulated a rather remarkable collection of equipment and resources including ships, aircraft, helicopters, trained rescue dogs, satellite communications, parachute rescue teams and even a mini submarine!

It was at this time that, as a result of an audit, NSCA Executive Director, John Friedrich was arrested for fraud. He was charged with one count of obtaining financial advantage by deception and a further 91 counts of obtaining property by deception. It was the biggest fraud case Victoria had seen and Friedrich became known as Australia’s greatest conman.

In a dramatic turn of events, on 26 July, 1991, Friedrich allegedly committed suicide one week before the commencement of his trial in court. It was later revealed that he was not an Australian citizen, which was a cause of significant embarrassment to the Department of Defence who had granted him a security clearance. Friedrich was a citizen of West Germany, where he was also wanted for fraud.

Dramatic colour image of woman with her hair caught around a power drill.

Keep long hair covered, H33211/92 

A dramatic colour image of a man who has his hair and scalp caught in a piece of machinery.

Half a head – 20 square inches of scalp lost. Can you afford this? H33211/40

We acquired this series of posters, published by the NSCA in the 1970s and 80s, through legal deposit. This is legislation that requires a copy of every publication published in Victoria to be deposited at the State Library of Victoria. Safety is a serious matter, but it’s hard to look at some of these overstated posters without some humour.

A humourous colour image of a male driver completely missing the entrance to a staff carpark because he is distracted by an attractive woman.

She’s a real smasherH33211/209 

A colour image of a young boy wearing his Dad's hard hat and work boots.

My Dad’s safe…How about you? H33211/24

Over three hundred NSCA posters have been digitised, which you can browse on the Library’s catalogue.

Written by Sarah Ryan
Librarian, Australian History and Literature Team

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