Australia’s “Find a Psychologist” directory Reply

Several OHS regulators in Australia, OHS professional associations and trade union have directories for OHS advisers.  Most of them are in the traditional OHS areas of guarding, engineering, chemical safety…..  Psychosocial issues such as work stress or workplace bullying haven’t featured as much.

The Australian Psychological Society (APS) has a very good searchable directory for its members.  The search results provide a brief table of those psychologists for the subject area in your region with a good amount of information on individual listings on the click-through.

A great feature is to locate someone within a radius of one’s town or suburb.  The Society has thought about the geography  if Australia by including a 200 kilometre radius option.

On a brief search for psychologists who specialise in work stress or workplace bullying, the large Australian capital cities had plenty of listings.  Darwin came up empty as did Cairns, Alice Springs and Broom but these are remote locations and there may be psychologists in those areas who could provide assistance on workplace psychosocial issues, just not as specialists.

The “Find a Psychologist” directory is very easy to use and could be used by other member organisations as a template for their own databases.  The APS website should be flagged by Australian OHS professionals who need he services of psychologists for workplace psychosocial assistance.

Kevin Jones

Three OHS case studies 2

The South Australian Industrial Court made three decisions in late July 2009 that are useful cases to look at in order to promote improved health and safety practices but also, in one particular case, to note the approval and endorsement of the judge in the post-incident actions of the employer.

As the SafeWork SA media notice states

“All received 25 per cent discounts from their fines in recognition of their guilty pleas, cooperation, contrition and remedial action to improve their safety systems.”

Case 1

“Bluebird Rail Operations Pty Ltd was fined $30,000 over an incident at its Kilburn workshop in March 2007.  A worker’s arm was crushed beneath a 1,500 kilogram sidewall, which broke loose when a lifting lug failed as it was being lifted to a rail freight wagon under construction.

The court heard that SafeWork SA’s investigation revealed deficiencies in the equipment used, the work processes and the communication channels.

While the worker suffered permanent and debilitating injuries, his employer provided ongoing support including education and training. The employee returned to work after several months and has been promoted within the organisation.”

This case reports a surprisingly short rehabilitation period for a crushed arm.  The words of Magistrate Lieschke should be of considerable note to those OHS professionals who want their clients and companies to go beyond compliance.

“I accept that Bluebird Rail facilitated Mr Sewell’s return to work, in accordance with its legal obligations to provide vocational rehabilitation.  I accept that Bluebird Rail has gone beyond its minimum legal obligations and has provided further re-education support to Mr Sewell, sufficient for him to complete a Diploma in Project Management and for him to now be studying an engineering degree at university. The degree course is being funded by Bluebird Rail.  That is commendable support. Mr Sewell has been promoted and is now working as an assistant project manager.”

Case 2

“International Tastes Pty Ltd was fined $20,250 today after an incident in which an employee had his arm caught in the rotating blades of a pasta-making machine at the company’s Glynde premises in January 2007.

The court was told that the employee was taught to operate the machine with the safety guard open, the interlock switch which would have stopped the machine from operating in such cases was not working, and no safety checks or procedures were in place for either the machine or the tasks involved with its use.

The 24 year old victim suffered fractures, lacerations and nerve damage resulting in a number of operations and considerable pain and suffering.  He has since returned to work interstate with a related company.”

Safety professionals constantly argue for interlocks that cannot be bypassed.  This case shows that the relatively young worker suffered considerably from the incident and has moved interstate to continue with his career.

The judgement raises issues of deep concern to OHS professionals in relation to the level of supervision and induction required for workers and the perennial issue of machine guarding.  The judgement reports the circumstances of the incident:

“On 23 January 2007 [Mr B] suffered serious right arm injuries while operating a pasta making machine in accordance with a method he had recently been taught.  He had received on the job training only and was not given the benefit of any written work procedures.  He had been taught to work in close proximity to unguarded rotating blades.

While using a two litre plastic container to collect pasta mix from the machine the container came into contact with the exposed rotating blades of the adjacent mixing bowl, which in turn dragged his right arm into the blades.”

Case 3

“Central Glass Pty Ltd was fined $9,375 having been prosecuted over an incident in February 2007 at its Salisbury factory, where it makes aluminium window components.

Two workers were manually lifting a slippery steel die weighing 95 kilograms to place it in a press.  In doing so, the die slipped crushing the fingertip of one worker and narrowly missing their feet as it fell to the ground from about waist height.

SafeWork SA told the court there were no safety procedures for the task and the injury could have been averted through the use of mechanical lifting gear, which was later purchased.”

This case can relate to the concept that existed for some time in Australia of a “safe lifting weight”.  This concept has been shown to be a myth as it focuses on only one part of the work process and assumes that the particular lift is outside the other lifting actions that a worker may have been performing previously. It also assumes that everyone has a similar lifting capacity.

The judgement of this case provides more detail

“On 16 February 2007 Central Glass Pty Ltd unnecessarily exposed its employee [Mr R] to a risk of serious injury at work.

With the help of another worker [Mr R]was required to manually lift an oily 95kg steel die from ground level and place it in a close fitting slot in a press at about waist height.  While doing so the die slipped and crushed one of [Mr R’s]fingers.  The die then fell to the ground narrowly missing the feet of [Mr R]and of his colleague. [Mr R] suffered a crush injury to the tip of his left middle finger.

Central Glass had not previously carried out any hazard identification and risk assessment process in relation to changing and fitting dies.  It did not have any safe work procedure for this task and did not provide adequate safety control measures such as mechanical lifting assistance.”

Kevin Jones

New Work/Life Research Reply

There seems to be new institutes and academic schools popping up regularly over research into the issue of work/life balance.  Recently one of the oldest and most prominent of the institutes, the Centre for Work + Life at the University of South Australia, released new research data.AWALI--full cover

The latest Australian Work and Life Index (AWALI) was released in late July 2009.  The executive summary identifies several important issues relevant to OHS:

“Three years of data about work-life interference in Australia tell us that many employees experience frequent interference from work in their personal, home and community lives, many feel overloaded at work and feelings of time pressure are also common and growing.”

“Work hours are central to work-life interference….. Many Australians are a long way from their preferred working hours and the 2008/09 economic downturn has not made any difference to the incidence of this mismatch.”

The work by Barbara Pocock and others at the Centre is characterised by recommendations for improvements rather than simply describing a situation.  In this data the researchers say

“Our AWALI reports over the past three years suggest that employers and public policy makers can help workers deal with work-life pressures.  This involves improving the quality of supervision and workplace culture, controlling workloads, designing ‘do-able’ jobs, reducing long working hours and work-related commuting, increasing employee-centered flexibility and options for permanent part-time work, improving the fit between actual and preferred hours and increasing care supports.”

It is obvious from these comments that OHS professionals need to work hard on these matters to create, or maintain, their workplace safety cultures.

Kevin Jones

New Cleaning Standard Reply

The Victorian Government has released a revised cleaning standard for the hospital and healthcare sectors but many others would find the information of direct relevance, particularly those who like to state they meet “world’s best practice”.

The standard is supported by a good short newsletter.

Many businesses and industry OHS professionals can feel like they are audited to death.  This is particularly so in the healthcare sector so it is with interest that the government has dropped the lodgement of scores for internal audits.  However the benchmarking exercise will continue with three annual external audits.

Those SafetyAtWorkBlog readers who are also auditors, inside and outside the health system, may find the overview on auditors of interest.

Kevin Jones

The safety of “green” jobs 4

At the Australian Labor Party conference currently happening in Sydney, the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, announced a program to create “green” jobs or jobs from the renewable energy and environmental sectors.

The program sounds a lot like the previous (Conservative) government’s Jobs for the Dole scheme – same unemployment sector different focus.  Rudd’s program is more “Jobs for the Globe”.   The environment needs all the hope that it can get but will the participants of the green job scheme gain marketable skills or is it a case of keeping idle hands active?

Regardless, there is an OHS context to environmental initiatives.

The United States seems to be well ahead of Australia in this policy area.  The NIOSH Science Blog reports on the US programs which are supported by OHS initiatives at the planning stage.  The blog lists the types of green jobs in the US:

  • installation and maintenance of solar panels and generators;
  • construction and maintenance of wind energy turbines;
  • jobs related to recycling;
  • jobs related to the manufacture of green products; and
  • jobs where green products are used in traditional fields such as agriculture, healthcare, and the service sector

In a media release not yet publicly available, Kevin Rudd has listed the Australian green jobs in his “National Green Jobs Corps”:

  • Bush regeneration and planting native trees
  • Wildlife and fish habitat protection
  • Walking and nature track construction/restoration; and
  • Training and hands on experience in the installation of energy efficiencies for buildings.

Huh??  One out of four for marketable skills.

There are several apprentice initiatives which may provide better skills but the Government will need to generate considerable growth in the renewable sector so that the skills gained can be applied.

• Revegetating bushland
• Constructing a boardwalk over vulnerable wetland
• Retrofitting energy efficient lighting and plumbing

Rudd said at the ALP Conference that

“The practical job-ready skills included in this training will include:

  • Training electricians in the installation of solar energy;
  • Training plumbers in the installation of water-recycling, plumbing systems; and
  • Training workers in the booming home insulation industry and the retro-fitting of buildings to reduce energy consumption”

It would have been visionary for the Prime Minister to mention the broader social benefit from also making sure that the young workers in this new sectors will be safe.  It could have been done as the NIOSH blog reports.

And the NIOSH initiatives show that OHS professionals and associations need to be active in reminding governments and business that OHS does not take a holiday.

Kevin Jones

    National scaffolding campaign Reply

    This week a national scaffolding safety campaign was launched in Australia.  There are several sources for new and useful information about the campaign, two are below.

    Mike Hammond of law firm, Deacons, has written a backgrounder on the need for the campaign and how to prepare for the compliance visits.  Hammond lists the key messages form the campaign as

    • “The campaign is designed to ensure compliance with existing workplace safety laws in relation to scaffolding;
    • Increase industry awareness of the safety issues associated with using unsafe scaffolding;
    • Recent incidents have highlighted a need to be vigilant when erecting, altering, using and dismantling scaffolding; and
    • A wide range of trades that use scaffolding are exposed to significant risks of death and injury when the scaffolding does not comply with AS 1576.”

    WorkSafe WA Commissioner Nina Lyhne said in a media release on 24 July 2009 that

    “The construction industry is a high risk industry. Sadly, we still see a large number of injuries and deaths on construction sites.

    WorkSafe [WA] focuses a lot of attention on education as well as on enforcement to reinforce the need for improved safety.  Recent scaffolding incidents have led to the death of a number of workers and seriously injured others across Australia.

    Industry is being advised of the intervention campaign, and inspectors from WA will be undertaking inspections over two months from 1 August to 30 September.”

    Kevin Jones

    New old US research into driving and talking Reply

    The New York Times has revealed research on the hazards of driving and using mobile phones that was withheld since 2003.   The newspaper understandably focuses on the intrigue that prevented the report from being released but the content of the report has the potential to substantially change how companies “manage” the hazard of their staff using mobile phones whilst driving. Pages from original

    The report, obtained through Freedom of Information and made available on the newspaper’s website, was a  substantial project for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and, according to NYTimes:

    “The research mirrors other studies about the dangers of multitasking behind the wheel. Research shows that motorists talking on a phone are four times as likely to crash as other drivers, and are as likely to cause an accident as someone with a .08 blood alcohol content.”

    The full report is available by clicking on the image in this post.

    Kevin Jones

    BHP Billiton’s safety record is again in the Australian media 2

    BHP Billiton’s production report has generated some OHS-related interest in the Australian business media on 23 July 2009, but not all.  [SafetyAtWorkBlog has written several pieces about BHP Billiton‘s safety record]

    The company’s iron ore production has fallen short of its May 2009 guidance.  Iron ore is the only division where production has dropped.  The Age newspaper reports that the five deaths “forced a production slowdown” and noted the Western Australian government’s review of BHP’s safety management.

    Malcolm Maiden’s commentary in the same newspaper mentions the BHP production results but describes the five workplace fatalities as “production glitches”.   He writes

    “Production glitches for both companies [BHP Billiton & Rio Tinto] might have been handled better if their iron ore operations were merged, as is now proposed.”

    Safety management may have been improved.  Rio Tinto’s OHS performance is considerably better but the description of the fatalities as “production glitches” is cold.

    This contrasts considerably with the coverage provided to the BHP results by the Australian Financial Review (AFR) which listed the issue on the  front page  with the headline “Poor safety record hits BHP output” (full article not available online without a subscription).  AFR says

    “the safety issues overshadowed better than expected results from BHP’s petroleum and  metallurgical coal units….”

    There was no overshadowing according to the writers in The Age.

    The AFR article identifies a raft of safety matters that illustrates well the OHS status of BHP Billiton and emphasises just how serious the workplace fatalities are.

    • “Tensions with the WA government [over a variety of issues, including safety] have escalated…”
    • Seven BHP workers died in Australia and South Africa in 2008/09.
    • “Eleven BHP staff… died while on the job in 2008.”
    • On 22 July 2009 WA Minister for Mines & Petroleum, Norman Moore, praised BHP’s efforts to improve safety but said “It is very difficult to understand sometimes why fatalities occur within the safety frameworks that operate in most major mining companies…” said on 22 July 2009

    Warren Edney, an analyst with the Royal Bank of Scotland and occasional media commentator, spoke in relation to the safety record of BHP’s Pilbara operations, where five workers died.  He said in the AFR article:

    “It’s better than Chinese underground coalmining but that’s not a big tick, is it?… In part you’d say that we’ve undergone this mining boom in WA so you’ve got workers who haven’t had the safety brainwashing that other parts of the workforce may have had over the last 10 years.  Part of it reflects that and part of it may be that people get pressed to do things quicker.” [my emphasis]

    It seems odd to compare the safety performance of an open-cut Australian iron ore mine with “Chinese underground coalmining”.  Similarly describing safety education and training as “safety brainwashing” is unusual.  SafetyAtWorkBlog has contacted the Royal Bank of Scotland for clarification of Warren Edney’s comments.

    The AFR has almost been leading the Australian media pack on reporting of safety management in 2009,  partly due to the OHS harmonisation regulatory program and its impact on business costs.  This may also be due to some of the concerns about increased union activity on worksites under the new industrial relations legislation.  The AFR should be congratulated for discussing the OHS context of BHP’s iron ore production figures and providing a front page prominence.

    Kevin Jones

    Behavioural-based safety is no different to traditional safety management Reply

    Sometime ago SafetyAtWorkBlog wrote that “engagement” was just a new term for “consultation”.  Rebadging or rebranding occurs in the safety discipline as much as any other but our internet ears pricked up at some recent comments in a  Canadian podcast from Safety Excellence.

    Shawn Galloway and Terry of ProACT Safety is discussing traditional approaches to safety management and how they fit into his philosophy of safety excellence.  They say this about behavioural-based safety (BBS):

    “[People] come back in with advanced strategies, like behavior-based safety and it’s the same old thing.  Everything on the behavior-based safety list is already covered by a rule or procedure in traditional safety.

    A lot of times it’s an admission of failure of their traditional safety program…”

    It is refreshing to hear a BBS specialist acknowledge that the role for BBS is to progress safety beyond compliance and that compliance strategies, what Galloway describes as “traditional safety”, are fundamental to a company’s safe operation.

    For those enlightened safety professionals who seek a deeper understanding of their discipline thr0ugh alternate perspectives, this particular podcast is very good.

    The full podcasts are often worth listening to as they discuss safety culture issues, performance indicators and many more of the current safety management concepts.

    Kevin Jones

    New approach to risks of nanomaterials Reply

    US research scientists have released a new article about assessing the exposure risk of nanomaterial.  Treye Thomas, Tina Bahadori, Nora Savage and Karluss Thomas have published “Moving toward exposure and risk evaluation of nanomaterials: challenges and future directions“.

    Pages from Wiley nano 02Refreshingly they take a whole-of-cycle approach to the materials and, even though, the conclusion is that more research is required, that they are approaching the hazard in this fashion is a very positive move.

    They say that nanomaterials will only become an acceptable technology if people understand the risks involved with the products.

    “The long-term viability of nanomaterials and public acceptance of this new technology will depend on the ability to assess adequately the potential health risks from nanomaterial exposures throughout their lifecycle.”

    This openness by manufacturers has not been evident up to now as the commercial application of the technology is early days.

    The researchers advocate two elements to further investigation of nanomaterials.

    The first is metrology and
    developing tools to characterize and measure relevant
    attributes of nanomaterials, including particle
    size, number, and surface area. The second is lifecycle
    analysis of nanomaterials in consumer goods
    and their transformation and degradation in products
    throughout the lifecycle of materials.

    “The first is metrology and developing tools to characterize and measure relevant attributes of nanomaterials, including particle size, number, and surface area.   The second is lifecycle analysis of nanomaterials in consumer goods and their transformation and degradation in products throughout the lifecycle of materials.”

    There are several medical articles included on the Wiley Interscience website that may be of relevance but it is heartening to see some interdisciplinary thinking in this field.

    Kevin Jones