Ergonomics of quad bikes – new research 4

While the New Zealand government is investigating agricultural safety issues, researchers from the University of Otago have looked at the ergonomic issues associated with the loss of control (LOC) of quad bikes by drivers.

According to a University of Otago media release, researchers Dr Stephan Milosavljevic and Dr Allan Carman published a paper in the current edition of Ergonomics.  The researchers

“….set out to analyse the driving behaviour of people who regularly use quad bikes, recognising a need to find out why people lose control of them so frequently.

Of the 30 male rural workers and farmers studied, 19 of them, or 63 percent, had experienced loss of control on a quad bike.  They were in their mid 40s on average, and about eight to nine years younger and less experienced than those who did not lose control.   More…

Can current fall protection systems save fat people? 5

Australian OHS research has raised some concerns about the “adequacy of  personal fall arrest energy absorbers in relation to heavy workers“.   In summary:

“The research demonstrates that most energy absorbers are not able to ensure that the two test criteria are not breached during the arrest of a heavy worker in the worst case scenario fall.”

There are many variables in this statement but it means that safety professionals may need to review their fall arrest devices to verify that the safety devices meet the needs of the (increasingly obese) workforce. More…

Safety professionals must understand RTW in order to avoid unnecessary costs 5

The rationale for the Australian government’s evangelism of harmonisation is the reduction of “red-tape” on the logic, or assumption, that business costs will also be reduced.  Dr Mary Wyatt, according to a report on ABC News Online, says that cost reductions may be possible be reducing over-servicing of injured workers.

Dr Wyatt says:

“We have an increasing focus on the medicine, and we have lots of scans that tell us there are things wrong with our bodies, and then when those scans are done it’s often labelled as a serious problem, and then the worker gets worried and we often go off on a tangent..” More…

Restorative Justice research gets funding boost as US hearings focus on workplace bullying and suicide 2

The role of restorative justice in workplace incidents has received a major boost from the Legal Services Board in Victoria.  According to an April 2010 newsletter from the Creative Ministries Network additional research funding has been received for a quality assurance framework.  As mentioned in the article below restorative justice could have particular benefits to instances of workplace bullying.

Several of the suggestions and areas of research echo some of the issues raised in US Assembly Labor Committee hearings on workplace bullying and suicides in the last few days.

“The Creative Ministries Network has received a further grant from the Legal Services Board to undertake a project to develop a Victorian quality assurance framework for any restorative justice service operating in the area of work-related death.  The project will also examine whether this framework may apply to work-related injury, especially in areas such as workplace bullying. More…

If laptop design is hazardous, what does this say about the iPad? 3

Recently SafetyAtWorkBlog received some promotional material from a laptop accessory supplier, ErgoAustralia, which stated that  laptops may be “the RSI of this decade especially for the growing bones and muscles of our children”.  The aim of the information was to show how accessories can reduce the risk of using laptop computers.

There is no doubt that this is so.  This blog is often written in a cafe through a fold away keyboard and back at the office, the laptop sits on a stand with a wireless keyboard and mouse but the laptop is not the principal PC on which work is performed.  That is a desktop PC.

When laptops are the only computer option and the work tasks rely on laptops, the complications and hazards occur.

Rick Clancy of ErgoAustralia provided the following quotes in support of the dangers of laptops:

Alan Hedge from Cornell University says the following “Guidelines for laptop use are more difficult because laptop design inherently is problematic – More…

Cash motivates, toasters create dissent 3

Motivating workers and managers to improve safety performance through rewards has been a contentious element of safety management processes for decades but no-one seems to have got it right.  Most bonus/award/reward systems are able to be manipulated.  An article in the Harvard Business Review and Australian Financial Review may add another dimension to the discussion by looking at the psychological effects of cash.

Kathleen Vohs undertook research that indicated

“The effect of handling money was quite pronounced—in the four scenarios we tested, the people who handled money reported significantly less pain or social exclusion.” More…

Canadian research shows occupational link to breast cancer 3

“Certain occupational exposures appear to increase the risk of developing postmenopausal breast cancer”, is a conclusion reached by Canadian researchers and released in April 2010 edition of the Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

The researchers acknowledged that “some findings might be due to chance or to undetected bias some findings might be due to chance or to undetected bias”, but there is enough evidence to generate concern in occupational sectors and, often, the media shows increased interest in breast cancer research.

Several Australian scientists have advised caution on interpreting the research findings.   More…

Psychosocial hazards are now, formally, occupational diseases 5

On 25 March 2010, the International Labour Organization released an updated list of occupational diseases.  On the ILO website, it is stated that

“Mental and behavioural disorders have for the first time, been specifically included in the ILO list.”

All occupational diseases, including psychosocial hazards, had to satisfy the following criteria in order to be considered:

  • “…that there is a causal relationship with a specific agent, exposure or work process;
  • that they occur in connection with the work environment and/or in specific occupations;
  • that they occur among the groups of workers concerned with a frequency which exceeds the average incidence within the rest of the population; and
  • that there is scientific evidence of a clearly defined pattern of disease following exposure and plausibility of cause.”

The exact text from the revised List of Occupational Diseases Recommendation R194 is

“2.4. Mental and behavioural disorders

2.4.1. Post-traumatic stress disorder

2.4.2. Other mental or behavioural disorders not mentioned in the preceding item where a direct link is established scientifically, or determined by methods appropriate to national conditions and practice, between the exposure to risk factors arising from work activities and the mental and behavioural disorder(s) contracted by the worker”

What this means in practice is unclear and is likely to vary from country to country in relation to recognition of UN and ILO recommendations.  What it does establish is that an international authoritative OHS body has acknowledged the existence of psychosocial hazards.

“The Eagle has landed”  however there will remain some organisations who will always believe that occupational causes of psychosocial problems belong on the same sound-stage as the Apollo moon landings.

Kevin Jones

The first workers’ compensation harmonisation meeting a sham: unions 8

“The conference inside is a bit of a sham” claimed Brian Boyd, Victorian Trades Hall Secretary at the first meeting into the harmonisation of Australia’s workers compensation laws.

“It’s really another hidden agenda about trying to harmonise workers comp after we fully know already, they’ve messed up harmonisation of OHS.”


Unprecedented interest in workplace bullying 9

On 25 March 2010, at the first of ten workplace bullying information seminars, WorkSafe Victoria, claimed to have a world-class approach to combating workplace bullying.  The Europeans may dispute the claim but there is no doubt that WorkSafe is on the right path in responding to the unprecedented community interest in the issue.

In a packed hall in the City of Melbourne, Trevor Martin, WorkSafe’s Strategic Programs Director, acknowledged the considerable media interest in the hazard over the last few years, and particularly since the prosecution of four men in associated with bullying at Cafe Vamp.  Martin said that WorkSafe’s advisory help line has been receiving more that 40 calls per day on bullying and harassment issues and that

“In February [2010] 560 calls were received …… 10%, 56 cases made it through to the dedicated unit for further work to be done.  That is an astonishing number of calls to WorkSafe on a single issue.” More…