In November 2010 Geoff Fary left his role with the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) to chair the Asbestos Management Review. On May 3 2012 Geoff Fary will join other keynote speakers in a full day seminar in Melbourne called “Cancer in the workplace – a forum on practical solutions for prevention“. This event has been jointly organised by the ACTU and the Cancer Council of Australia.
Australia’s trade union movement has a good record in asbestos- and cancer-related seminars but rarely do they gain much traction outside of their sector. The cooperation with the Cancer Council will broaden the appeal of the seminar into more general workplace health consideration, particularly with a speaker from the United States, Lucille Servidio of Capaccio Environmental Engineering. Local speakers are not overlooked with, probably, Associate Professor Tim Driscoll being the most recognisable participant to OHS professionals.
With the increasing attention to workplace health, concern over cancer clusters and breast cancer risks in nightshift workers, these very affordable seminars often give terrific value – not something that one always gets from the seminars that cost of $A2000 a day.
Media reports on the 13 April 2012 Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting say that harmonisation of occupational health and safety laws in Australia has died. Some say this is the fault of the Victorian Government with its economic justification for inaction but the process was struggling as soon as the West Australian Government flagged its major concerns, principally, with increased union powers, as reiterated in the Australian Financial Review on 14 April 2012 (not available on-line).
WA Premier Colin Barnett is quoted as saying that:
“There are three or four sections we don’t agree with and the principle one of those relates to right of entry [for trade unions]… We see that as an industrial issue. Right of entry, it is was applied to OH&S, in all probability would be used by the unions to shut down the Pilbara iron ore operations…”
This is further evidence of the political dominance of the mining sector in Western Australia, if it was ever needed.
Victoria does not have the same excuse as the right of entry has existed for many years and almost totally without any industrial relations problems. More…
The Victorian Government has released the PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC) assessment of the potential economic impacts of the introduction of the national Work Health and safety laws.
The government media statement accompanying the report states that
“The proposed laws do not deliver on the intent of the COAG reform agreed to in 2008 which aimed to reduce the cost of regulation and enhance productivity and workforce mobility,” Mr Baillieu said.
“Victoria already has the safest system, the most effective system, the lowest rate of workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths of all states, and the lowest workers’ compensation premiums in the country. It is estimated that it will cost Victoria $812 million to transition to the new model and $587 million a year in the first five years in ongoing costs to businesses. Most of those costs will be borne by small enterprises which make up 90 per cent of Victorian businesses…,”
This media statement needs to be seen as, largely, political posturing. PwC has produced a report that confirms many of the suspicions that the conservative politicians in Victoria have held for some time. More…
Dr Tony Lower of the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health & Safety has released new information about deaths and injuries associated with quad bike use in Australia for 2011. His report lists media reports that
“There were at least 23 quad bike related fatalities and 56 major injuries, many of which are likely to be life‐changing…”
He also continues to keep pressure on the quad bike manufacturers:
“It is an absolute insult to quad bike users and particularly to those families that have lost loved ones in rollovers that the manufacturers and the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) simply continue to defend the indefensible. There is an urgent need to address this issue through better design of the quad bikes themselves and also ensuring crush protection devices are fitted”
But the severity of the risk and potential consequences of using quad bikes is well established. This article is going to look at a couple of other issues raised by Dr Lower’s media release (not yet available online) and the Media Monitors report. More…
The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) advocates for workers’ rights and entitlements with occupational safety being one of those entitlements but sometimes the safety message from ACTU is a little narrow.
On 14 March 2012, the ACTU issued a media release responding to the release of important workplace safety data by Safe Work Australia. The release quotes ACTU President Ged Kearney emphasising very important data:
“This report has found that the cost of each workplace incident is around $99,100 and of this workers pay $73,300, the community $20,800 and employers $5100…”
“We think we are a clever country but it isn’t so smart to forgo almost 5% of our nation’s GDP on the cost of preventable workplace injury and illness…”
But what does the ACTU propose to address this economic cost of poor safety management? More…
Safe Work Australia has released two important statistical reports. One concerns the number of Work-Related Traumatic Injury Fatalities for 2009-10 and the other is called The Cost of Work-Related injury and Illness for Australian Employers, Workers and the Community: 2008-09 .
These reports have gained minimal mainstream media coverage. In a very short article The Australian newspaper preferred to focus on productivity clauses in workplace agreements following a departmental report, as is its choice, but, more significantly, the newspaper’s headline dismisses the report’s cost estimates on “work-related injuries, illnesses and deaths” as “sickies”. The report on costs, from where The Australian drew its $A60 billion reference, includes an evaluation of the cost of workplace fatalities, defined in the report on page 18 as
“a work-related injury or disease, which results in death.”
It is enormously insulting that the newspaper includes workplace deaths in its disparaging headline “Workers’ sickies costing us $60bn”. Minister Bill Shorten states in his media release accompanying the reports that:
“Work-related injuries, illnesses and fatalities have a huge impact on Australian society. They can physically and mentally affect workers, colleagues, employers, families and the community. This latest research is evidence of the significant cost to Australia’s economy. Workplace safety is not just about avoiding human tragedy it is also about reducing economic cost for the nation.”
At a time when the Federal Workplace Relations Minister, Bill Shorten, is trying to bring some rigour and dignity to the issue of workplace safety, The Australian newspaper should be ashamed.
There has always been a moral similarity between the occupational health and safety (OHS) profession and the environmental advocates. One focusses on the immediate safety of humans and the other on the long term safety of humans. This similarity can create challenges for organisations and industries that have workers in both environmental settings such as forestry and mining. This type of challenge is currently being faced by Dr Nikki Williams of the Australian Coal Association.
In an article in the Weekend Australian on 10 March 2012 Dr Williams expressed concerns over a Greenpeace campaign against coal mining. (Significantly the newspaper included no quotes from either Bob Brown of the Australian Greens or from Greenpeace. ABC News did on on March 6 2012) She inadvertently compliments the campaigners by saying the campaign shows a “a very high level of planning”, is “sophisticated” and “very detailed”. More…
In February 2012, the Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR) released a research report into the efficacy of crush protection devices (CPDs) on all-terrain vehicles or, more accurately, quad-bikes. The report summary states that
“Experimental tests conducted by the University of Southern Queensland indicate that the Quad Bar CPD is capable of either preventing a complete roll, or modifying the roll event to reduce the risk and severity of injury to the rider for both side roll and back flip scenarios. These results highlight the potential for CPDs such the Quad Bar to reduce rider injuries and fatalities resulting from low speed roll over incidents;”
Great news for the manufacturer of the Quad Bar. However the report is damning of some research into quad bike rollovers, particularly that which has been relied on by the quad bike manufacturers to resist the application of CPDs. More…
“I have a really bad feeling about this“
In Star Wars, Han Solo and other major characters express their gut feeling about various situations. In traditional risk management parlance, that “gut feeling” would equate to subjectivity, an element of decision-making that needs to be minimised in risk management if not eliminated. This has been sought through various statistical analysis tools, risk nomograms and rational approaches to risk. But all decision-making has an element of the emotional, the subjective, the gut-feeling. This position was emphasised recently in a presentation in an OHS conference by Dr David Brooks who described risk management as an art as well as a science. More…