There has been little movement on the assessment and management of manual handling risks in Australia during the period of OHS/WHS harmonisation. Just an hour or so ago, Work Health and Safety Queensland released a video that outlines its manual handling assessment program PErforM – Participative Ergonomics for Manual Tasks.
A PErforM manual for trainers seems to have been around since February 2012 but the new video should create fresh interest in the program that is supported by a new handbook.
Manual handling risk assessments are one of the most difficult tasks for business and safety people but they can also be a safety task that offers the greatest financial and worker rewards. This initiative is a relatively new look at an old OHS problem.
It is common for regulators, major clients and accreditation bodies to require copies of a detailed health and safety management plan so that they can be assured the contractor is complying with OHS laws and contract safety obligations. Over the years, part of my job has been to assess these plans to determine their quality, validity and applicability. Some have accused me of nitpicking, others have appreciated the pedantry but my perspective is that such plans are a crucial method of establishing and communicating OHS practices and providing a base from which a positive safety culture can be constructed.
I would argue that any company that has a carelessly written OHS management plan is unlikely to fully understand its own OHS commitments. That company would also be providing conflicting and confusing safety information to its own workforce and its subcontractors.
Inaccuracies and inconsistencies
One example that comes to mind was a large company who submitted an OHS management plan which detailed many safety commitments, what I consider “promises”. However, there were inconsistencies such as the person who was responsible and accountable for safety at the start of the plan, let’s say a “safety manager”, and who was not mentioned any further. More…
Recently, the issue of Safe Work Method Statements was discussed at a construction safety conference in Canberra. SafetyAtWorkBlog reported that:
“Several delegates stated their belief that the Office of the Federal Safety Commissioner (OFSC) is largely to blame for the over-emphasis on SWMS in the construction sector and for the bloating of SWMS into a document that does little to improve safety and is more related to meeting the audit criteria of the OFSC”
Last week, the Office of the Federal Safety Commission (OFSC) removed the webpage that led to its Fact Sheet – Guidance for producing Safe Work Method Statements. The webpage now says that
“The Guidance for producing Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) Fact Sheet is currently under review.”
What’s going on? More…
Safe Work Australia has released its latest draft code of practice for preventing and responding to workplace bullying for public comment. There are many useful and practical strategies in the draft code but workplace bullying is only a small element of the more sustainable strategy of developing a safe and respectful organisational culture.
The definition in the May 2013 draft code is a tidied up version of the September 2011 definition:
“…repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety.”
The lack of difference in these definitions is a real positive given the complaints, primarily, from the business community since 2011. The significance in both definitions is that there must be a direct relationship between the behaviours and health and safety risks. This could be substantially difficult to prove, particularly if , as in most cases, it is the recipient of the bullying who needs to prove this.
Consider, for a moment, that this code of practice is used for establishing preventative measures and not just used for disproving a court case, these definitions can help establish a benchmark for creating a safe organisational culture. More…
The May 2013 National Safety magazine has an article on safety leadership by Australia lawyer, Michael Tooma. It is a terrific article but it also highlights the lack of case studies of the practical reality of safety leadership in Australia and the great distance still required to improve safety. Tooma starts the article with
“It is widely recognised that strong safety leadership is integral to work, health and safety performance in any organisation.” [emphasis added]
Later he writes
“There is little doubt that safety leadership is a prerequisite to a positive safety culture in any organisation.”
These equivocations may indicate authorial caution on the part of Michael Tooma but they could illustrate that the role of safety leadership still remains open to question. More…
Occupational health and safety has many examples of addressing small or short-term issues rather than facing the difficult and hard, but more sustainable, control measures. I was reminded of this by a recent media statement from the United States Chemical Safety Board (CSB) in relation to fatigue management.
In 2007 the CSB recommended that, following the Texas City refinery fire,
“the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the United Steelworkers International Union (USW) jointly lead the development of an ANSI consensus standard with guidelines for fatigue prevention in the refinery and petrochemical industries.” [links added]
The progress of API and USW in developing the 2010 ANSI-approved Recommended Practice 755 (RP 755) has been reviewed by the CSB staff and they have found the following disturbing problems:
- “The document was not the result of an effective consensus process, and therefore does not constitute a tool that multiple stakeholders in the industry can “own.” It was not balanced in terms of stakeholder interests and perspectives, and did not sufficiently incorporate or take into account the input of experts from other industry sectors that have addressed fatigue risks. More…
Writing recent articles on workplace bullying and harmonisation reminded me of an interview I conducted in 2003 with the then head of the National OHS Commission, Robin Stewart-Compton. NOHSC was a predecessor to Safe Work Australia.
The extract below reminds us that National Uniformity, a cousin to harmonisation, started over twenty years ago.
SAW: In the early 1990s there was a strong push for National Uniformity of OHS laws and a recent conference of the Royal Commission into the Building and Construction industry discussed this issue at length. Will the National Strategy achieve the aims of National Uniformity over 10 years ago?
RSC: The language has changed and you are more likely to hear of National Consistency than Uniformity but although this change has occurred there exists a paradox. Ten years ago we spoke commonly of the objective of National Uniformity and made very little progress toward achieving it. More…
Such are the warning signs
It stopped at 2.32 pm of an ordinary day. One string of events ended abruptly at the pinch point of a groaning conveyor belt when his arm was ripped off. Do you think of Swiss cheese models of risk alignment? Of complexity or failure to learn? Of the Moura coal mine disaster, the Longford oil and gas plant disaster, the Baker report and the BP Texas City refinery fatalities, of 29 miners killed in the desolate and terrorising Pike River coal mine, NZ, 2010? Do you think of precariousness lurking at work, of leadership, of productivity?
For me this was the 5th arm I was personally aware of disappearing violently at work, generating years of withdrawal and solitude unrecorded in any OHS statistics. In that time I had also observed hundreds of missing or useless machine guards. Such a well known and easy hazard to fix. What exactly is the problem, what does it indicate about OHS generally, and what may go some way towards practical improvements? More…
For some months Australia’s Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten, has been talking about establishing a Centre for Workplace Leadership. This presents an opportunity for practical progress on OHS but it relies on someone joining the dots of occupational safety, workplace health and productivity – a highly unlikely occurrence.
In December 2012, Shorten started looking for a provider of the Centre, a facility that he described as
“…a flagship initiative of the Gillard Government and will play an important role in supporting our aim to increase workplace level productivity and the quality of jobs by improving leadership capability in Australian workplaces…
He also said that
“This will not be another training company. The Centre will drive a broader More…
The October 2012 edition of The Synergist, the magazine of the American Industrial Hygiene Association, included a frank interview with Niru Davé of Avon. Dave says that many safety and health professionals have a low level of competence.
He explains his statement through his belief that there are three competency elements in a safety professional:
- Knowledge – staying up-to-date with the information in your field
- People Skills – respect and approachability, and
- Contribution – communication and involvement, participating in and generating a strategic approach.
These elements could apply to any profession and to any professional association, or industry group. Indeed these elements can be both personal and organisational. More…