Safety Culture can distract from safety management 6

Mohammad Rabbi has recently written that

“…safety culture is something that must permeate an entire organization. Its application largely depends on the investment, training, employee attitude, environment, location, laws, customs and practices in the industry.  So how can organizations go about developing a safety culture?”

He is right that any safety culture has a wide range of business and social contexts but the quote, and the article, Workplace Safety Culture 101, seems to miss a couple of contextual realities.  Many of these issues quoted appear to be basic elements of business and safety management and not dependent on safety culture programs.

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Coronial findings into level crossing fatalities released Reply

Today the Victorian Coroner has released the findings into the 2007 Kerang rail disaster and other level crossing fatalities.  SafetyAtWorkBlog has written about issues related to level crossings those articles may help when reading the many media articles that the inquest findings will generate.

Already family members of the Kerang victims have expressed their dissatisfaction with the findings. More…

Engineering handbook progresses OHS management 3

Cover of Rail Good Practice Handbook UKMany safety professionals in Australia have become so familiar with the work of James Reason that they are looking for the next big thing.  There isn’t one but there are small things that build on Reason’s work and, importantly, that of other safety theorists (the non-cheese sector) to progress safety management

Recently a colleague drew my attention to a 2013 handbook on Engineering Safety Management.  It focuses on rail engineering but has a broader safety relevance.  Both volumes of the handbook are freely available HERE.

The text may seem a little stilted and some may be turned off by the engineering focus but there is much to like and the engineering focus will seem fresh to the OHS professionals.  There is an acknowledgement of the overlap in approaches between rail safety and OHS, an overlap that is increasing in Australia. More…

New Zealand railways, red tape, politics and workplace deaths Reply

cover of NZ RailOn 28 April 2013, New Zealand lawyer, Hazel Armstrong, published a 48-page book on how workplace fatalities and the management of the NZ rail industry has been related to politics and economics.

This is an ideological position more than anything else and the evidence is thin in much of this short book but there is considerable power in the description of the manipulation of occupational health and safety regulations and oversight during the political privatisation of the NZ rail sector.  Many countries have privatised previously nationalised, or government-owned, enterprises usually on the argument of productivity and efficiency increases.  Armstrong argues that these arguments were used to justify breaking the trade union dominance of the rail industry. More…

An OHS look at the Australian Labor Party’s National Platform 1

Cover of National Platform 2011 ALPThe leadership squabbles in the Australian Labor Party (ALP) have diminished  for the moment, and the next Federal election is set for September 2013.  Most everyone is tipping the ALP to lose the election.  The verb “lose” is specifically chosen, for the opposition Liberal/National coalition will probably win “by default”.  Whatever the electoral outcomes, the major political parties in Australia have current positions and policies on workplace safety.  Six months out from an election, it may be worth looking at those policies, as they currently stand. The first is that of the ALP.

The ALP has an extensive National Platform that was presented at its National Conference in 2012.  Below are some of the statements from that document as they pertain to occupational health and safety (OHS).  Some commentary is offered on these statements.

“The Labor Government places the highest priority on worker safety, particularly miner worker safety.” (page 42) 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…

Safety leadership and culture require accountability 11

At the recent Safe Work Australia Awards, the Minister for Workplace Relations had a dig at “safety culture“, according to an article from the National Safety Council of Australia.   Bill Shorten said :

“It is not the systems or the fancy talk about culture that will save people’s lives.”

This has been interpreted by some as Shorten disparaging the advocates of safety culture.  I agree that safety culture can be used as a euphemism for “Act of God” and therefore take no preventative action but safety culture is not designed by Gods, it is designed and implemented by Chief Executive Officers and Boards of Directors, often under the rubric of “leadership”. More…

Fatigue management is getting clearer but is competing for attention 6

As a discipline for study, fatigue still seems to be in its early days and this presents a challenge for safety professionals and researchers.  Everyone knows what fatigue is because at some time we all suffer it, but try to define it and it is different things to different people.

Transport Safety Victoria (TSV), a division of the Department of Transport, brought together three speakers on the issue of fatigue management in early August 2011.  The public seminar provided a good indication of the complexity of the occupational issue of fatigue management.

The first revelation in the seminar came from Dr Paula Mitchell who stressed that fatigue cannot be self-assessed.  Researchers are struggling to create a widely accepted indicator for fatigue.  There is no blood alcohol reading device for fatigue and the Independent Transport Safety Regulator in July 2010 expressed caution on the application of the bio-mathematical fatigue model. More…

UK case exposes the hypocrisy of leadership commitment 6

Most safety professionals can tell stories about how workplace injuries are hidden so that bonuses or rewards are still distributed even though they are not warranted.  Most of these examples are at the shop-floor level where rewards, although much anticipated, are minor – first aid kits, movie tickets, sometimes money – and where peer pressure can be quite overpowering.  But occasionally a situation is revealed where senior executives also rort the system in order to obtain a reward or a bonus.  In September 2010, the UK union Unite has revealed just such a case in Network Rail, a case where the chairman has acknowledged that greed played a role. More…

The potential of Safety Impact Assessments 6

For some time, several countries have had legislation that require Environment Impact Assessments.  Why don’t we have Safety Impact Assessments?

Often safety issues are applied retrospectively in project development.  Often the application is impeded by actions or pathways that are already in place, although embryonic.

There is evidence that safety performance can be greatly improved by having safety considerations at the very early design stages of projects.  Perhaps, rather than simply stating “safety is important”, the commitment to safety be more overtly stated in a formal manner at the project design stage. More…