Strengthening safety decision-making 5

Any professional sees elements of their profession in other walks of life.  Police notice infringements when they are off duty.  Teachers often continue to instruct or educate when outside of school.  Journalist’s conversations with friends often contain pointed questions.

Safety professionals, commonly, extend safety principles to their own behaviours and lives.  This can sometimes lead to a heightened intolerance of unsafe behaviour in others but also desires that life operated on safety principles.  Today I wondered about the application of the concept of “Reasonably Practicable” in prioritising corporate and personal safety objectives.

I simplified (bastardised, some may say) the Safe Work Australia guideline on reasonably practicable into questions that we should ask in our non-OHS lives but, most importantly, the priority of the reasonable practicable process is retained.  The questions, in order of priority are:

  • How important is it?
  • How harmful could it be?
  • What do we know about it?
  • How can we control it?
  • How much will it cost?

Self-help aficionados may see these as life lessons or criteria that can be applied to many decisions.  I agree to some extent but the priority of the questions is of most importance in the decision-making process because it places the issue of cost last. More…

Australia’s mining sector progresses safety but without effective accountability 1

In 2010 the New South Wales Mines Safety Advisory Council (MSAC) released its important Digging Deeper report, proving this industry sector is at the forefront of safety management innovation in Australia.  This month  MSAC provided an insight into “world-leading” safety with its report “Actions for World-leading Work Health and Safety to 2017“.

The report discusses five strategic areas for attention but of more interest is the elements that MSAC believes represents “world-leading WHS”:

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South Australian WHS laws get closer Reply

Australian OHS discussion forums have been buzzing with the passing of the model Work Health and Safety (WHS) bill through the South Australian Parliament. SafetyAtWorkBlog has been advised that the WHS Bill has yet to go to Committee stage which then requires a third reading.  Some engaged in South Australian politics still believe the WHS Bill will fail to become law.

However the focus should not only be on the WHS Bill as there were other OHS matters discussed in Parliament on 6 September, such as workplace bullying.

Second Reading

The Second Reading Speech (page 2069) by Russell Wortley on 6 September 2012 includes some comments of note. Below are a couple of extracts:

“There has been a lot of fearmongering about the effects of these laws. I want to assure honourable members that these fears are misguided and, sadly, often based on misinformation from lobby groups with a particular self-interest in seeing this legislation defeated.”

“…if we do not modernise our laws now, the scope of legal workplace safety protections will continue to be limited by the employer/employee relationship and existing ambiguities will remain. Honourable members need to understand that if the bill is not passed, a South Australia worker will have lower standards of safety than other workers in other states and territories across Australia.”

Of particular note is that Wortley tables (pages 2077-2079) the Housing Industry Association‘s table of increased costs from the new WHS laws. More…

Managing on luck is not managing safety 11

In December 2011, SafetyAtWorkBlog reported on a serious misreading of workplace safety by the President of the Australian Hotels Association in South Australia (AHA/SA), Peter Hurley.  The debate on new work health and safety laws in South Australia continues and on 7 September on radio station FIVEAA, according to an interview transcript (not available on-line), Peter Hurley continued to display his misunderstanding of OHS laws and principles even though SafeWorkSA responded at the time.   The broader significance of his comments is that they could provide an example of the way that OHS myths are created through anecdote and misunderstanding.

Hurley reportedly said:

“..last year one of our hotels was subjected to some very aggressive inspectorate activity and among a myriad of other nit-picking things that we were instructed that we had to comply with was an instruction that we had to deck out our bottle shop staff in high vis apparel so if someone wandered in and wanted to have a discussion about the nuances of one vintage of Grange against another, they were going to have stand there and talk to a bloke who looked like he was working on a building site … More…

Reliance on PPE impedes safety progress 6

There is an increasing call for the mandatory wearing of high-visibility clothing for motorcycle riders around the world.  The reason is to make motorcyclist more visible to car drivers and other road users.  This sounds logical and sensible and is, in some way, based on the prominence of high-visibility clothing in  the industrial sectors of manufacturing, construction and others.  But is this a matter of policy based on evidence or a broad application of logic or a “common sense”?

As the requirement for high visibility clothing has been in workplaces longer than on motorcyclists it is worth looking for evidence of the effectiveness of high visibility clothing in workplaces.  A brief survey of some of the research literature has been unsuccessful in locating much research into this issue. (We always welcome input from readers on this). Wikipedia traces high-visibility clothing back to Scottish railways in the early 1960s, where

“Train drivers operating in these areas were asked their opinion as to the effectiveness of the jackets.”

It would seem the choice of high visibility clothing has stemmed from assessing a workplace, determining the dominant colour of that workplace or environment and then examining the colour wheel (above) to choose a colour of the greatest contrast, thereby providing a high visibility.   More…

The Australian Government looks to apply “above-the-line” safety to quad bikes 4

At the end of August 2012, Australia’s Minster for Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten, released a discussion paper on quad bike safety. The intention of the discussion paper is a:

“…calls for submissions on potential improvements to quad bike safety to reduce the alarming rate of quad bike fatalities and injuries….

The comments received will be discussed at a one day forum between all levels of government, farming organisations, unions, industry and community groups to be held in October 2012.”

The paper is fairly thin on details and is certainly not like other discussion papers which present a current state of knowledge or present a set of circumstances that comments are wanted on.  But most of the quad bike safety research is readily available on the internet so, perhaps Minister Shorten is acknowledging this reality and the intelligence of those interested in this issue. The paper poses the following questions: More…

CCH and Freehills produce a curate’s egg of an OHS book Reply

CCH Australia has a long history as a prominent publisher on occupational health and safety issues but its latest book is a “curate’s egg”.

Australian law firm, Freehills, has always been very involved with CCH’s “Master occupational, or work, health and safety  guides but the 2012 edition of the Australian Master Work Health and Safety Guide is a more obvious marketing tool for Freehills than previous editions.  The books have long had a back page advertisement.  This year’s back page is devoted entirely to Freehills. The early pages of this edition include ten of photos of Freehills authors contributors with another eight of other non-Freehills authors before any useful text appears.  It is difficult to see the need for such prominence when names alone have been sufficient in books for decades.

The book is also much more graphical and pictorial than previous editions but CCH’s decision to keep the book’s contents in black and white is less than impressive.  Some of the monochrome photos in the Manual Tasks chapter are indistinct. Previous OHS books like CCH’s 2003 Australian Master OHS and Environment Guide had no graphics so colour was not missed.  The lack of colour was a poor decision for this book.

The chapters on the model Work Health and Safety laws are less interesting than those sections dealing specifically with hazards.  This book is a good introduction to many of the OHS issues that safety professionals will deal with or need to be aware.  One recently graduated work colleague found the chapter on Plant Safety particularly good but basic.  The information on the WHS laws seems familiar, and similar information is likely to be available from a much cheaper source or from reputable online sources.

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New research on doctor visits hints at new areas of OHS research 2

The Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR) is drawing considerable attention to a recent research report into the actions of patients after medical practitioners ( a general practitioner or GP in Australian parlance) have identified a work-related illness. The research is unique and instructive and indicates areas that require more analysis.

According to the media release on the research:

“ISCRR’s Chief Research Officer, Dr Alex Collie, who conceived the research, said that over 22 per cent of workers didn’t make compensation claims even though their GP had determined that the illness was work-related.” (link added)

Dr Collie continues:

“There are a number of reasons we are seeing work-related conditions not being claimed.. More…

The need for safety stories 4

Many companies and organisations take in OHS graduates, often as part of a program of internships, but sometimes because they are “cheap” new starters.  Whatever the process, graduates are hungry to learn but often they believe their profession started when they did.  Increasingly there is an ignorance of history and this puts the graduates at a distinct disadvantage.

Graduates often are strong on theory and poor on the practical.  This is understandable in some ways but graduates can be handicapped by not knowing what their older and more experienced work colleagues know.  On the job training and instruction is often passed down but the stories are not and the history of safety seems passed over. More…

OHS – the missing element in productivity debate 3

On 7 August 2012, the Victorian Premier, Ted Baillieu, verbally attacked the Federal Government over its COAG program and lack of support for  productivity initiatives.  The criticism of productivity sounded odd as the Victorian Government has dropped out of the reform program for occupational health and safety laws yet OHS is understood to have a positive effect on productivity. More clarification was needed on this understanding.

In April 2012 the Productivity Commission, an organisation favoured by Premier Baillieu, discussed OHS reforms in Australia.  that

“Improved health and safety outcomes achieved in practice would then lead to benefits for businesses (such as increased worker productivity, reduced worker replacement costs and reduced workers’ compensation costs), workers (increased participation, reduced medical costs among others) and society more generally (though reduced public expenses on health, welfare and legal systems).” (page 170)

For years there has been a debate about safety versus productivity.  Partly this stemmed from the taking of shortcuts on safety in order to satisfy production.  In the short-term, it was perceived that safety could be an impediment to production - take the guard of a machine, run the line speed faster than recommended, “don’t worry about the faceshield, just get it done”.  But safety professionals have been arguing that this risky behaviour masks the real problem of  not integrating safety management into the business operations and seeing safety as an optional add-on, or something applied when the boss is watching.

The recently released OHS Body of Knowledge provides some relevant insights on the productivity benefits of safety management that deserve better and broader communication. More…