A shaky start leads to a terrific book on incident investigation by Michael Tooma Reply

There is one word that should not be used as an adjective in relation to workplace fatalities – impacted. Workers fall from roofs and the concrete floor has an impact on them. Workers hit by mobile plant or crushed in machines die from the impact. An impact results from the transfer of energy and this transfer of energy in workplaces can kill. “Impacted” is used by those who do not feel comfortable differentiating between “affect” and “effect” and it is surprising to find the term used in the opening chapter of Michael Tooma’s latest book, More…

New Tooma OHS book augurs well for the rest of the series on due diligence 6

Tooma is a leading figure in Australia’s analysis and application of occupational health and safety (OHS) laws.  He has also been a regular author for publisher CCH.  His latest book on workplace health and safety is entitled “Due Diligence: Duty of Officers”.  The process for harmonisation of OHS laws in Australia continues to be a rocky one but there are some elements emerging that, even if the laws are not applied in each State, will change the way that OHS is perceived in workplaces.  The increased involvement and accountability of senior managers has been a More…

Tooma takes aim at the Environment Minister over accountability 5

Participants at the 2010 Safety In Action conference and the 2010 ASSE Conference will be familiar with lawyer, Michael Tooma‘s faith in due diligence to improve safety management in Australia.  In the lead-up to his appearance at another Australian OHS conference in October 2010 he has again restated his faith but this largely ignores the changed political context of OHS harmonisation on which the new Work Health and Safety laws are based. I have mentioned Australia’s current peculiar political position elsewhere.  The uncertainty of Federal politics overlaps and could greatly affect the OHS harmonisation process, or rather, its application.  It seems even more likely that More…

When safety equipment fails to be safe, nobody’s watching 38

Twelve months ago, some Australia media, including this blog, began reporting on safety concerns raised by the Working At Heights Association (WAHA) about the reliability and suitability of anchor points.  Australia is currently in the middle of Safe Work Australia Month and there seems to have been little progress on the issue.  A reader of SafetyAtWorkBlog provided the following summary and update of the situation: Who checks the true safety of equipment designed to save the lives of Australian workers? Nobody in particular, it seems. Last September, the Working At Heights Association, an industry body More…

HIP Royal Commission – Gross Negligence and Accountability Reply

Little of the recent commentary on the findings of the Royal Commission into the Home Insulation Program (HIP) have mentioned the opinion of the Royal Commissioner Ian Hanger that the Australian Government acted in a “grossly negligent” manner.  Such a comment deserves considerable analysis by a specialist lawyer but it remains a remarkable criticism in terms of obligations under OHS/WHS laws. Commissioner Hanger wrote: “To encourage inexperienced young people to work in an environment where there was a risk of defective electrical wiring, and allow them to install conductive material was, in my opinion, grossly More…

Ministerial responsibility in finance but not in workplace safety 9

Ministerial responsibility seems to be advantageous in financial policies but irrelevant to workplace safety going by actions by Australia’s political leaders.  This week former senior (Labor) parliamentarians, Mark Arbib, Peter Garrett, Greg Combet and Kevin Rudd, will be fronting the Royal Commission into Home Insulation to explain their lack of due diligence on workplace safety matters.  This is only a week after the Federal (Liberal) Government released a Commission of Audit report that promoted ministerial responsibility. The popular perspective is that these ministerial decision-makers will be held to account for the deaths of four young workers but this More…

Anchor points could meet the Australian Standard but still be unsafe 6

Twice in early April 2014, 7.30, a current affairs program of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, ran two lead stories about occupational health and safety – home insulation-related fatalities and the risks of working at heights.  The latter of these provided only a glimpse of a complex OHS issue and only touched on the matter of the self-certification of anchor points where compliance does not necessarily equate to safety. This issue has been taken up by the Working at Heights Association (WAHA) on 11 April 2014. In a media release WAHA stated: “In the wake of last More…

Lessons from Royal Commission into Home Insulation Program – Part 1 Reply

Australia’s Royal Commission into the Home Insulation Program (HIP) demands the attention of all occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals, primarily, because a job creation and economic stimulus program was so poorly planned at the highest level of government, that it seems to have established a culture that led to workplace deaths. However the Royal Commission is already revealing information that shows how OHS is misunderstood by decision-makers, a situation that still persists in many jurisdictions and will only change by watching the Royal Commission carefully and analysing this information through the perspective of workplace More…

Moral conflicts in store for Australian politicians and bureaucrats 1

2014 is going to present tough challenges to Australia’s politicians and corporate leaders.  The Royal Commission into the Home Insulation Program, in particular, is going to illustrate and perhaps generate ideological conflict. The Home Insulation Program (HIP) was established quickly to address a looming economic crisis.  Politicians and business leaders wanted Australia to avoid the global recession and they needed creative solutions.  Various importance governance and safety elements appear to have been sacrificed to achieve the economic ends.  In 2014, the politicians of the time and bureaucrats will be grilled over why they made these decisions.  Various More…

Hundreds plead with government to save lives while those to blame beg for scrutiny 9

The article below has been written by Marian Macdonald and is about an event that I recently attended in Sydney about fall protection. When a plumber perched on the rooftop of a skyscraper clips a safety harness onto the point that anchors him to the building, there’s a one-in-three chance the anchor itself is unsafe. Remarkably, the installers being held to blame are pleading for greater scrutiny of their work from the regulator. The Working At Heights Association (WAHA), which represents fall prevention equipment installers, today sent a call to action submission (not available online) More…