Harmonisation documents available but path is far from settled 1

On 25 September 2009, Australia’s Workplace Relations Ministers Council
(WRMC) agreed to release the draft legislation for public comment.

According to one media report, the New South Wales Finance Minister, Joe Tripodi,

“…moved at the [WRMC] meeting to have union prosecutions included in the new laws and was defeated by eight votes to one.”

Pages from Discussionpaper_ExposureDraft_ModelActforOHS_PDFThe documents are now available for download HERE.

According to Safe Work Australia’s media statement:

“The suite of documents available for public comment includes a model Act, administrative Regulations and consultation Regulation Impact Statement (RIS). The RIS will allow individuals and organisations to comment on the potential costs and benefits of the proposed Regulations. The RIS has been prepared by Access Economics.”

Curiously, it also says that Access Economics is

“…surveying businesses across a range of sizes, industries and regions in an effort to obtain primary data on compliance costs and safety benefits.”

It is odd that this has not been done earlier to, perhaps, substantiate the claims that the OHS law changes will reduce costs and “red tape”.

At the Comcare Conference in Canberra in late September 2009, Geoff Fary, illustrated very effectively the small sector of business that would be affected by the national laws.  Fary estimates that only around 1% of Australian businesses are likely to be liable to the “red tape” argument.  Many of these companies could be expected to already have some form of national OHS management systems, perhaps through Australian management standards.

Whether the percentage of affected 1% or 5% it is hoped that the Access Economics survey does not focus only on this sector.  Previous surveys have indicated a large ignorance or apathy about national harmonisation.  This is likely because the vast majority of Australian businesses operate within a single jurisdiction so the harmonisation is considered irrelevant.  The sad reality is that the OHS legislative structures in Australia for the next 10 to 20 years will be determined by the corporate sector, the regulators themselves, and the labour law firms and not necessarily by the small to medium-sized businesses for whom OHS can be the most burdensome.

SafetyAtWorkBlog had the chance to ask Geoff Fary, the assistant secretary of the ACTU, of his thoughts on the continuing opposition to harmonisation expressed by Troy Buswell, the Western Australia Treasurer.  Fary said that harmonisation

“…could occur without Western Australia being involved.  It couldn’t occur, I believe, without Victoria or New South Wales or Queensland being involved but because of the nature of the place and the geography of the place it could occur without Western Australia, and I think there is probably a strong possibility….that harmonisation will proceed in the absence of Western Australia.”

If this evenuates the harmonisation process becomes an academic exercise yet again.

Kevin Jones

Early worker health statistics from WorkHealth Reply

WorkHealth has released some data on the results of its first wave of free health checks (not yet available online)

“Recent results from tests of 3500 workers conducted as part of the ….WorkHealth program found more than half were overweight and/or had high blood pressure while a quarter had high levels of blood cholesterol.”

These figures are not as “surprising” as WorkHealth makes out as the health check program is free to all workers in the State of Victoria and is likely to be the first time that many of the workers would have undergone such checks.  Indeed, WorkHealth acknowledges this fact for its blue-collar male workers.

The data is summarised by WorkHealth below:

  • Male workers were more likely to have high blood pressure;
  • Female workers were more likely to have higher levels of cholesterol in their blood;
  • The majority tested eat less than the recommended five serves of vegetables each day; and
  • The majority of people tested eat at least two pieces of fruit each day.

A health profile of the general Australian population from 2008 found the following statistics, amongst others:

Coronary heart disease is the largest single contributor to the burden of disease
in Australia, followed by anxiety and depression.

Coronary heart disease is the largest single contributor to the burden of disease in Australia, followed by anxiety and depression.

Cardiovascular diseases, cancers and respiratory diseases remain the leading causes of death overall.  However, injury is by far the most common cause of death in the first half of life.

Many Australians live with long-term health conditions. Most of these conditions are not major causes of death, but they are common causes of disability and reduced quality of life.

WorkHealth may be a turning point in the health management for some of the participants, and even if this is a tiny minority, the WorkHealth program could be claimed as a success.

Now if we could only do more about the smoking, dust, fumes, forklifts, sedentary work, fatigues, shiftwork, depression, stress, alcoholism and anxiety…..

Kevin Jones

Nursing home OHS – a 2001 interview with Kathleen Rockefeller 2

The last time I spoke with Kathleen Rockefeller was in 2001 on the eve of her speaking at a conference organised by the Ergonomics Society of Australia.  At that time Kathleen was a physical therapist and ergonomist within the Washington State Department of Labour & Industries.  Her latest profile says that she is now in Florida (via Chicago) as an Assistant Professor at the School of Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences at University of South Florida.

Rockefeller interview 2001_Page_1Kathleen’s career may have progressed (as probably has her tan) but the hazards and control solutions that we discussed in 2001, sadly remain relevant.  I have reproduced some of the interview I conducted with Kathleen in those early days when no-lift policies were radical and  patient-handling equipment was expensive and rare.

SAW: Around the world the no-lift policy is being introduced but why is that policy the most popular risk control measure?

KR: I don’t know where it actually originated or where the term “no-lift” came from. It’s a horrible term because everyone in healthcare knows that it is a little unrealistic. I think some people have been turned off by the name. I prefer to call it “low-lift” or “minimal-lift”.

Looking at the literature and research clearly shows that decreasing the amount of times per day that the human body has to act like a derrick is a good idea. Each episode exposes the body to forces of a magnitude high enough to potentially be injurious. Anyone who has nursed or worked in nursing homes knows that lifting is not the only activity that carries physical risk. There are tasks like leaning over the bed to delivering treatment to changing clothing, repositioning—these activities can be stressful as well. I wish it were simple to say “let’s get rid of the lifting” but it is an important first step.

SAW: In Australia the no-lift push came from the unions in order to push management to get into action on a whole range of manual handling issues.

KR: I’ve heard a rumour over here, and I don’t know how true it is, that the equipment manufacturers began using the term “zero-lift” but I really don’t know.

SAW: Your research shows that financial incentives were used to encourage the purchasing of new equipment. Were the incentives really necessary?

KR: Washington State is unique in the US in that the workers compensation insurance is handling by a State agency. So the insurance is handled by us unless the company meets the requirements for self-insurance. The agency has monitored the data and monitored the trends to try some initiatives with a number of different industries, nursing homes were chosen for a research project. They were hurting financially. A major reason for not buying lifting equipment was financial.

The agency decided to allocate some of their funds to the nursing home industry and to see if offering some of the funds allocated for injury prevention projects would help. The funds weren’t handouts but discounts on the workers’ compensation premium in return for investing in equipment and beginning a manual handling improvement process. The program was designed as a trial project to see what effect this type of incentive might have.

SAW: How applicable is your research to other States, given Washington’s unique processes?

KR: Many recommendations will be applicable as the program wasn’t just on the financial incentives. The study was a state-wide and industry wide look at how nursing homes were doing overall in implementing zero-lift programs. The research has identified the problems of implementing a large-scale intervention and we can all learn from these problems.

SAW: Other than manual handling what are the major OHS risks in nursing homes?

KR: Of course, patient handling has various tasks and the higher risks are certainly the physical transferring but also the repositioning, delivering incontinence care to residents, changing their clothing. The other thing I noticed in the homes while following nursing assistants and doing sampling is the total amount of time they stand or walk. I think that fatigue must be a contributing factor, both local muscle and total-body fatigue. There is very little recovery time. I knew this already but doing the research really emphasised this.

SAW: Did you observe a high stress level? Was resident violence an issue?

KR: Those are certainly issues as well. The issues of staffing and turnover is huge. The turnover for nursing assistants is an industry average of 100% a year and can go much higher. The constant turnover creates turmoil.

An unexpected element was the huge turnover in management personnel. This was striking. When you think of a facility trying to keep stable processes and procedures and the head person leaves within 3 years or even one year— that is a real problem.

I heard a lot from the nursing assistants and through the literature about the importance of knowing the residents. You mentioned potential problems with the residents but if you work with the resident for a while you get to know them and then you may be able to pick up warning signs on behaviour. If you’re a short term agency nurse and you don’t know the residents, it may increase your vulnerability.

SAW: Perhaps the no-lift policy has been introduced due to the throughput of staff rather than dealing with a root cause of the manual handling injuries? Perhaps because no-lift can give immediate results?

KR: Expecting a zero-lift program to have miraculous results in light of these other issues leading to instability is an unreal unrealistic expectation. I think introducing the program and getting it to work as best you can while at the same time, people who can affect change, maybe us baby boomers, need to start screaming very loudly because our parents are next.

Injuries related to manual handling have a number of causes and efforts to decrease these injuries require multi-faceted approaches. The point is well taken because if you are going to expect a zero-lift program in itself to have miraculous results in light of these other issues leading to problems and instability, it is not a realistic expectation.

Kevin Jones

Alarming statistics on young workers and compensation 1

Safe Work Australia has issued some important statistical reports on workplace injury statistics.  One statistic, in particular, stood out:

“…young workers aged 15 to 24 incurred much higher rates of injury than other age groups and were the least likely to apply for workers compensation”

The injury statistic is not surprising and is consistent with other data but why are young workers “least likely to apply for workers compensation”?  Are they unaware of their rights?  Do they work in a situation where claiming compensation is taboo?  Is illiteracy a deterrent?  Has their employer deterred them from applying?  Is their type of work illegal, casual, or in the black market?

SafetyAtWorkBlog asked Safe Work Australia, if not through workers compensation, how are young people funding their medical/rehabilitation costs.  A spokesperson provided the following non-age specific response:

“We are unable to provide an answer to this question as the data has not been analysed separately by age.

However, the last section of the report on workers’ compensation applications shows the various forms of financial assistance that all injured workers used.

For all injured workers, 34% received workers’ compensation, 39% did not access any financial assistance (these were mostly injuries involving no time lost from work) and the remaining 27% did access some form of assistance. Within this latter group regular sick leave was the most common.

Of the injured employees who did not access workers’ compensation, 18% used their regular sick leave, 9% accessed Medicare or other social security benefits, 7% had costs paid by their employer, 5% used other resources such as money from family and friends while 4% access private health insurance or income protection insurance.

Respondents to the survey could select more than one response to this question.”

Inverting some of these stats raises some concerns. (Please note that statistics is not the strongest skill of SafetyAtWorkBlog, so please correct any issues through the comments section below).

For all injured workers, 66% did not receive workers compensation. This should be a big red flag to OHS regulators and deserves more analysis.

Of the 66% over half  (57%) funded their injuries without recourse to health insurance, sick leave, employer contributions, support from family or friends, Medicare or social security.  Expanding the young worker question above to workers generally, how are these injured workers funding their rehabilitation from outside the regulated and social support mechanisms?

Some years ago SafetyAtWorkBlog attended an international conference on OHS.  There were many people at this Melbourne conference who spoke about the Asian and African countries where injured workers must rely on family, or other social security mechanisms, for an income, as workers’ compensation was non-existent.  This is one element of  economic integration into the Asian region that Australia should not be tolerating.

A spokesperson for Safe Work Australia told SafetyAtWorkBlog (read slowly as there are numbers involved):

“The survey estimated that 689,500 workers were injured at work during 2005-06. Of these, 625,900 were employees and hence eligible for workers’ compensation. However, 388,100 did not apply for compensation and 23,800 applied but did not receive compensation.

This means that 66% of injured employees did not receive compensation. While this equates to 60% of injured workers not receiving compensation it is not correct to use this figure as 12% of workers were not eligible for it.

Looking only at the 411 900 injured employees who did not apply for workers’ compensation

  • 75,700 accessed regular sick leave
  • 30,100 had their employer pay their costs
  • 35,500 used Medicare/social security
  • 18,200 used private health insurance/ income protection insurance, and
  • 18,700 accessed money from other sources such as family and friends.

Please note that when looking at these figures that 42% of injuries involved no time off from work and hence costs would be very small.

Analysis of additional data from the survey, that has not been included in this round of reports shows that over 60% of injured workers aged 15 to 24 felt their injury was too minor to claim or that they felt it was not necessary to claim. This is double the percentage for all workers. While this may sound like young people had more minor injuries, this is not the case. Young workers had the same proportion of injuries that involved no time off work as the workforce as a whole and the same proportion that involved longer periods of time off from work.”

The last paragraph cycles this article back to the start.

….over 60% of injured workers aged 15 to 24 felt their injury was too minor to claim or that they felt it was not necessary to claim. This is double the percentage for all workers.

There is something missing from how OHS is promoted to young workers.  The quote above indicates that young workers know about OHS but do not understand OHS.  But that’s not something that can be provided in a 30 minute TV ad, a medium that young people are increasingly less interested in.

Perhaps, we should be spending less time telling people not to stick their hands in a guillotine and more time empowering them in their workplace rights.

Kevin Jones

When ATV helmets are “best practice” 3

A recent media statement from the New Zealand Department of Labour on all-terrain vehicle (ATV) safety is annoying and disappointing.

On 15 September 2009, the Palmerston North District Court today fined farmer Trevor Mark Schroder $25,000 and ordered him to pay reparation of $20,000 to his employee John Haar over an  ATV accident on 26 November 2008 that left Mr Haar with serious head injuries.

Dr Geraint Emry, the DoL Chief Adviser for Health and Safety, says

“…Mr Haar was riding an ATV supplied by Mr Schroder when he apparently drove into a wire used to direct cows into specific areas of the farm.  Mr Haar had not been wearing a helmet and the severity of his injuries increased as a consequence.  Nor had he been told that the wire he rode into had been put across the race.”

atvguide2 coverThe statement goes on to state

“The Agricultural Guidelines – Safe Use of ATVs on New Zealand Farms – advise that the wearing of helmets by quad bike riders is considered best practice.”

SafetyAtWorkBlog strongly knows that New Zealand is very active in ATV safety but finds it hard to believe that the “wearing of helmets…is considered best practice”.  This admits that, in using ATVs, personal protective equipment is the best hazard control option available.

The guidelines mentioned above are from 2003 and do mention ROPS:

“Until such time as there is evidence to the contrary, farmers have the right to choose whether or not they fit ROPS to their ATVs.”

The NZ DoL and, by inference, the Chief Adviser are quoting a 2003 guideline as best practice in 2009?!

Relying on helmets may be the reality but is also an admission of defeat with ATV designers and manufacturer.  In many circumstances ATVs cannot be fitted with roll-over protective structures (ROPS) due to the nature of the work – orcharding for example.  But Australia and New Zealand insist on ROPS for tractors, with similar criteria and exceptions to ATVs.

VWA Farm_ROPs coverIn one ROPS FAQ from the NZ DoL it says

“Evidence both in New Zealand and overseas has shown that the risk of injury in a tractor overturn can be substantially reduced when the tractor is fitted with ROPS of the appropriate standard.”


“Where the nature of the operation makes it not practical for ROPS to be fitted to an agricultural tractor, then, under the terms of this code of practice, the General Manager, Occupational Safety & Health Service, may issue a notice excluding the tractor from the requirement to have a ROPS.”

Some States in Australia have had rebate schemes for ROPS for many years.

It is suggested that a better level of driver protection from rollovers is evident on forklifts through the use of seatbelt and an integrated protective structure.  Applying logic to safety is fraught with danger but the rollover hazard is the same whether in a warehouse or a paddock and having only a helmet for a forklift driver would be absurd and unacceptable.  Why is only a helmet considered best practice for ATV drivers?

Rather than comparing ATVs to motorcycles as in this 2003 report, the comparison should be between ATVs and tractors or, maybe, forklifts.

The New Zealand Transport Agency says this about ROPS and ATVs in June 2008:

Many ATVs have a high centre of gravity, and are prone to tipping over when cornering or being driven on a slope. Rollover is the leading cause of injury associated with ATVs – riders can be crushed or trapped under an overturned machine.

If you attach a rollover protection structure (ROPS) to your ATV, make sure it’s securely fastened, doesn’t interfere with rider mobility and doesn’t raise the ATV’s centre of gravity. Contact OSH for guidelines on how to fit ROPS safely, and make sure the ROPS is strong enough to protect you.

So why aren’t ROPS considered best practice by the DoL?

The ATV injury case quoted above is unlikely to have occurred if the ATV had some form of structure around the driver or, admittedly, the wire was more visible or known to the driver.  The relevance in this case was that the helmet most probably reduced the severity of the injury but would not have avoided contact with the wire.

Research is occurring on ROPS for ATVs but the rollover hazard has existed for as long as ATVs have existed.  Are ATVs simply unsuitable for the work they are being used for?  Is the design wrong for workplace use?  Are they being advertised or promoted for inappropriate use?  Should farm workers be encouraged legislatively or financially to fit ROPS?  Perhaps the only safe ATV is a tractor?

Is the requirement for ROPS for tractors, but only helmets for ATVs, an acceptable double standard for workplace safety?

Kevin Jones

Injuries cost business 6% of their profit 7

At The Safety Conference in Sydney in October 2009, Dr Ian Woods, a senior research analyst for AMP Capital Investors, will advise Australian employers that the cost of workplace injuries on their businesses could be around 6% of their profit.

According to a media release in support of the conference

Dr Woods signals three occupational health and safety costs of concern to investors: workers’ compensation premiums, indirect costs, and the costs of alleviating workplace incidents.

“The indirect and unbillable costs associated with workplace injuries are like an iceberg,” he says.  “They represent a huge percentage of the total cost that’s impossible to assess until you run into trouble.”

“The disruption to production caused by workplace injuries cost Australian businesses an estimated $490 million in 2000-01.  The extra administration cost another $360 million.  Incidents can also trigger loss of goodwill, strikes, recruitment issues and dozens of other immeasurable costs.  The United Kingdom’s Health and Safety Executive indicated that the cost of uninsured losses is 10 times the business cost of insurance premiums paid for the same period.

“An injury with $1,000 in direct claims costs will also bring about $5,000 of indirect costs.  Assuming a 5% profit margin, that equates to $100,000 of turnover.  This simple return on investment (ROI) illustrates how valuable preventive measures are to financial bottom lines.

“Still, there is more to investing than just the economic case for improving OH&S performance.  As well as the economic costs, inequality of benefits, costs and suffering are key issues.”

Some of the concepts sound familiar.  Around the turn of the century there was increasing interest in corporate social responsibility and ethical investments and OHS was mentioned regularly as a corporate element that investors would seriously consider.

A good example of the feeling at the time can be seen in a 2002 interview for SafetyAtWork magazine, Paul Gilding of ECOS Corporation* talked about workplace safety.  He was asked about linking workplace safety with sustainable business.

Pages from Safe Companies Ecos Corporation March 2002 coverPG: This is a real fascination for us.  We first came across workplace safety as a major issue for one of our clients, DuPont, where safety culture is so embedded in their business that you can’t walk into their offices without picking it up.  We realised that, as sustainability experts, we had hardly ever come across that issue.  The people who talk about sustainability also talk about corporate social responsibility, human rights in developing countries, climate change, biotechnology, ethics, every issue you could think of but they very rarely, except in a token way, talk about workplace safety.

We first thought why should this be a sustainability issue and then we thought why wouldn’t it be?  We’re talking about the way corporations behave, the effect they have on society, the effect they have on the community they work in, yet we’re not talking about the fact that they are killing and hurting their own people.  This is a surprising omission when it is so fundamental to sustainability.

This perspective has transformed into the widespread advocacy of “safety culture”.

2i14-3 horstAround 2001 Westpac Banking Corporation was developing an OHS index that measured the share performance of the top 100 companies.  Interest in this has faded over the last ten years to such an extent that it is difficult to locate any reference to it.  However, the Westpac index was discussed at many OHS conferences at that time and gained overseas attention as shown in these comments by the former Director of EU-OSHA, Hans-Horst Konkolewsky to Safety At Work magazine in 2001. [Full interview is available]

Q: One of Australia’s major banks, Westpac, is establishing an OHS index that shows relations between this index, the All Ordinaries share index and a company’s share performance. Have you seen this sort of thing in the European region?

HHK: We haven’t seen it explicitly. This bank has taken the lead. I saw on my way to Australia that there seems to be an F4 investment initiative to assess companies’ performance but more broadly with environmental performance, social performance, child labour issues, but also safety and health.

This is one of the many ways we can improve awareness and create a preventive culture starting through the investment area. In Europe, we have had quite a number of different approaches where companies have issued social statements or accounts where they have informed about their employees’ satisfaction with their work, working conditions, customer satisfaction with servicing, their relationship to the society, activities related to employment problems and so on. There are a number of examples that point in the same direction.

I must say that I believe that this can be a rather strong movement if investors and customers, through their demands and market mechanisms, can improve safety and health.

A capital-idea coverA more detailed report that places OHS strongly within the CSR discipline is a 2002 report, now available through an Australian Government website, called “A capital idea -Realising value from environmental and social performance“.

Dr Wood’s presentation will build on these reports and the work of overseas OHS organisations in trying to provide a cost estimate for workplace injuries.  Let’s hope that there are specifics and that there is enough audience enthusiasm to generate a sustainable interest.

Kevin Jones

* cannot verify that this report is still available online

HR management needs to engage with safety management Reply

Businesses, more often than not, place OHS as a subset of the Human Resources Department.  This gives the HR manager considerable organisational clout but often keeps the importance of OHS constrained.

This structure may be functional but also reinforces that the belief that safety can be addressed in HR terms and that is not necessarily the case.

HR Leader cover 001The limitations can be illustrated through the cover story of the latest edition of Human Resources Leader, a weekly publication from LexisNexis.  “People profit…and how to measure it” * is a very good article for the magazine’s intended readership of HR practitioners and recruiters.  It discusses the need for more research into the links between corporate financial performance and employment engagement, “soft measures” and other “metrics” and several other personnel management concepts.  It even provides a “formula for measuring Employee Lifetime Value (ELTV)”.

One serious safety incident could blow all these metrics out of the water.  The risk of injury or illness doesn’t seem to be calculated anywhere in the article.  The costs associated with not managing safety seem to be well-established and tangible through medical costs + repair costs + rehabilitation costs + business disruption + workers compensation.   Dr Ian Woods of AMP Capital Investors estimates injury costs equal an average 6% of profit.

If safety is an element of human resources management, there should be at least some (passing) mention of it, or its costs, in articles that try to measure people management costs.  Omitting this business cost, or wellbeing threat, or continuity threat, or whatever phrase is fashionable at the time, does both safety management and personnel management a great disservice.

Safety is far more than just “health & wellbeing” – a truism that some in the HR sector, particularly the white-collar professions, tend to forget.

Kevin Jones

* a free login is required to access the magazine online

SafetyAtWorkBlog gets praise for independence Reply

Today, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) released a four-page document criticising the campaigning techniques and statistical foundation of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).  Nothing unique in that ideological battle, however, what grabbed our attention was that SafetyAtWorkBlog is mentioned specifically.

ACCIBriefing_8Sep2009 coverI contacted the ACCI this morning and thanked them for reading the blog and for describing SafetyAtWorkBlog as a “respected website”.  We’ll accept praise from anyone as our major indicator of success mainly comes from the steady increase in our readership statistics.

The ACCI makes considerable mileage out of a SafetyAtWorkBlog article that discusses the survey results that the ACTU released in support of some of its campaigning for further changes in the national OHS laws that are currently being drafted.

Several comments are useful in relation to the ACCI paper

SafetyAtWorkBlog obtained the survey results by requesting them through the ACTU and being provided them by Essential Media.  We have a policy on any media releases that quote statistics.  If the statistics are not readily available, or at least the relevant OHS parts of survey results, we do not usually report on the issues raised or we make a point of stating that the statistical assertions are not able to be verified.

The ACCI paper echoes many of the points raised in the blog article.  Our main point was to question the wisdom of using statistics as support for a campaign when the statistics do not, necessarily, support the  campaign objectives, or, in the least, may provide alternative interpretations.

The Essential Media report provided to SafetyAtWorkBlog could have been more detailed and the ACCI certainly wants more than we have seen.  Releasing such a paper criticising the ACTU for not sharing research data puts the ACCI in a position now where it cannot deny the public release of its research data, at least, on matters relevant to OHS.  The questions from ACCI have set a precedent for openness and information sharing.

Whether marching in the streets in support of an OHS campaign is effective, or warranted, or not is almost a moot point.  Many of the televisions stations covered the union marches in Australia earlier this week.  The 7.30 Report felt there was enough of a profile raised by the union campaign that it followed up many of the concerns raised with a long article in its show on 8 September 2009.  The media exposure has been able to further raise the profile of OHS as a contentious issue that is being acted upon by government.  It should raise the “seven out of ten” OHS awareness factor, quoted by the ACCI, a few points at least.

Given the criticism of the ACTU, one could genuinely ask, how the ACCI is increasing awareness of OHS matters in the community as well as its membership?  It is not expected out in the streets but the occasional media release or four-page rebuttal does not have the same affect as a march of hundreds of people on the television.

In all of this to-ing and fro-ing, SafetyAtWorkBlog takes pride in its independence and as a forum for expressing views on a social and industrial issue that has only ever before been discussed by political ideologues from fixed perspectives.

Perhaps safety professionals could apply the wisdom of Oscar Wilde to safety

“The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”

It seems to me that OHS has not been talked about for far too long.

Kevin Jones

NZ proposes new exposure levels on formaldehyde Reply

The New Zealand of Department of Labour is continuing its negotiations on new exposure levels for formaldehyde.

The latest proposed exposure levels for formaldehyde are 0.3 ppm (8 hour TWA) and 0.6 ppm (STEL).  Currently the levels in New Zealand are 1ppm (ceiling).

According to US OSHA, it’s exposure standard is


TWA: The employer shall assure that no employee is exposed to an airborne concentration of formaldehyde which exceeds 0.75 parts formaldehyde per million parts of air (0.75 ppm) as an 8-hour TWA.


Short Term Exposure Limit (STEL): The employer shall assure that no employee is exposed to an airborne concentration of formaldehyde which exceeds two parts formaldehyde per million parts of air (2 ppm) as a 15-minute STEL.

WorkSafe BC says

BC‘s current 8-hour TWA of 0.3 ppm is well below levels capable of causing adverse health effects and protects the worker from the pungent, unpleasant odour of formaldehyde.

NZ DoL is also discussing dropping there exposure levels for soft wood dust from 5mg/m3 to 1mg/m3.

The cancer risks of formaldehyde have been investigated over some time and the weight of evidence shows that this chemical is a probable human carcinogen.

Kevin Jones

Australian stun gun review report Reply

Coincidentally after the SafetyAtWorkBlog article on the Braidwood Inquiry, the Queensland government investigation into the use of stun guns by police officers has been leaked to an Australian newspaper a day before the official release.

According to a media story in The Australian on 4 September 2009:

The joint Crime and Misconduct Commission-police review, launched after the June heart-attack death of north Queensland man Antonio Galeano, has ordered an overhaul of police training and operational policy, requiring the stun guns to be used only when there is a “risk of serious injury”.

The review, to be released today and obtained exclusively by The Australian, marks the first time an Australian authority has recognised the possibility the stun guns can injure or kill, especially when fired repeatedly at a person.

Within eight hours of the story above being released, a report, again in The Australian, but by a different writer, says:

“A CMC spokeswoman said the contents of the report were yet to be released but claims the weapons would be banned were untrue.”

The confusing reports may say more about journalism than stun guns but it also indicates the extreme sensitivity about the use of these items by emergency and security officers.

SafetyAtWorkBlog will include a link to the Queensland report once it has been publicly released.

Kevin Jones

UPDATE – Report released

The Queensland report into stun gun use has been released and is now available for download.

Pages from 16225001252029372054 qld taser report cmc