SafetyAtWorkBlog would not purport to be knowledgeable about airlines, Turkish or Australia but there was a fascinating article published in Europe on 12 March 2009 that discusses the safety culture in Turkish Airlines. The article is entitled “Islam and the art of aircraft maintenance” by Claire Berlinski More…
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has shown a remarkable video of a Turkish man who was involved in a level crossing incident and survived.
Initially it is difficult to identify the man from the aerial perspective but the side view shows clearly how lucky the man is.
It is not the policy of SafetyAtWorkBlog to show gratuitous videos with no point. That is a role, it seems, for the internet generally. However this video has instructional uses beyond the “gosh” factor.
It is worth looking at the video and considering the following issues
- Rail location
- Visibility of truck driver
- Isolation of pedestrians from rail and vehicular traffic
There are many other issues that could be pertinent but are not identified in the video, such as administrative policies, compliance, even behavioural safety.
In this instance it is highly unlikely that the worker complementing the hard hat with a high visibility vest would have made much difference to the outcome. But then an unfastened vest may have presented its own non-visibility hazard as a catch point for the wheel structure of the truck as it passed over him.
Please note that it is his survival which makes this video of interest but there are clear safety improvements to be made.
Many employees undertake first aid training because it is a relatively easy training program to arrange, it is cheap and it provides skills that can be applied outside the workplace.
But newly trained first aiders often leave training with an unrealistic feeling of empowerment. Regularly, small businesses regret the disruption caused by the first aider’s evangelism for safety, particularly if the first aider was trained to provide some generalist safety presence in the company. Similar disruption can result from health and safety representative training and perhaps that is why many small businesses are wary of this.
First aid trainers need to remind students regularly of the reality of first aid. This reality is shown in the death of a truck driver in an isolated part of Australia on 9 January 2009. First Aid is a terrific life-saving skill but the reality is that circumstances beyond one’s control may still result in a death.
In a class once, a student asked a first aid instructor what would happen if a farmer was bitten by a snake in an isolated part of the farm and the farmer had no first aid skills or kit. The trainer responded, “the farmer would die”.
The reality of living in a large country of isolated roads and small population is shown in the death of the truck driver.
The role of mobile telecommunications in the article is a distraction and relates more to the current political and commercial disputes between the Australian government and the telecommunication providers, than to the truck driver’s injuries.
The article may lead to discussion on the poor emergency resources in rural and outback Australia.
First aid and emergency response has been revolutionised by mobile phone technology over the last 20 years. Mobile phones have caused us to find lost bushwalkers and to get emergency ambulances to accident scenes much quicker. Thankfully, a quicker emergency ambulance response shortens the time needed applying first aid.
It is a truism that no matter how much training we have, or how much technology we can access, death is a reality of life.
The defence forces operate with a different understanding of risk and safety. In the past there are many instances where soldiers lives have purposely been sacrificed for the greater good. This has been an integral part of many “heroic” battles.
The Australian federal OHS authority, Comcare, is at the forefront of a clash between occupational safety and armed services culture. The Age newspaper has revealed the Australian navy’s continued use of chrysotile asbestos in its ship and navy bases years after the substance was banned for use. The newspaper says that a risk assessment report has found
..”the risk to personnel was significant, exposure to asbestos was almost certain and the consequences were “potentially catastrophic”.”
OHS standard practice is to identify the control of hazards in line with the Hierarchy of Controls which seems to have been done as the newspaper reports
“A ban on the use of and import of asbestos-containing materials in Australia came into force on January 1, 2004. But the ADF [Australian Defence Force] requested and won an exemption [page 5 of the SRCC 2005-06 Annual Report] to continue using chrysotile asbestos parts until 2007 on two strict provisos: that the parts were “mission-critical” – meaning their absence would ground equipment and jeopardise a mission – and that no non-asbestos replacement parts could be found.”
So the hazard can’t be eliminated or substitutes found. That’s the first two levels of the hierarchy down. The report goes on to assert that the (in)action of the Navy could be illegal and says the exemptions were renewed for another three years (page 81 of the SRCC Annual Report 2007-08)
The remaining levels of the control hierarchy are not addressed in recent media reports or documents available through Comcare’s website but the continuing cases of asbestos-related diseases reported by the lobby groups would indicate that personal protective equipment may not have been used or used appropriately.
Most organisations are aware of the hazard of asbestos if not how the hazard relates to the specific circumstances. The Navy cannot claim this as it has specifically claimed exemptions for the hazard.
The current Defence Minister, Joel Fitzgibbon, took action on the defence force’s use of asbestos products almost 12 month’s ago and even though it was reported that he gave the Defence chiefs a “dressing down” over the issue, circumstances seem not to have improved.
“But Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon, who first accused the Defence Force of lethargy in its efforts to remove asbestos in 2007, when he was in opposition, said despite the massive cost of ridding the ADF of asbestos, its continued use was unacceptable.”
For those who habitually argue that worker safety is not affordable, the Minister’s quote above shows commitment. Sadly it is these types of comments that can come back and haunt politicians.
It is suspected that the Minister or the Navy is receiving letters about non-asbestos gaskets from keen equipment suppliers as you read this blog. But that raises the problem of the labyrinthine issues of defence equipment procurement. Perhaps the fact that anti-asbestos campaigner and former trade union leader, Greg Combet, is now the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Procurement may fast-track the issue. It is hoped that on the issue of asbestos in the defence forces, Greg speaks up soon.
Earlier this week Queensland MP Tim Nicholls, of the Liberal-National coalition gave the Queensland Transport Minister, John Mickel, a serve over the $10 million program on level crossing safety by calling the response “window dressing”.
Nicholls seems more interested in political point-scoring than safety but he asks
“What has happened to all their much vaunted safety studies over the last decade. It’s about time this Government came clean and explained whether it would actually commit new funding, what ongoing rail safety programs, if any, it has and whether today’s announcement will mean money is redirected from other maintenance and safety programs.”
He points out that
“Railway level safety was included in the National Road Safety Action Plan in 2003 and the Australian Transport Council has previously described railway level crossing crashes as ‘one of the most serious safety issues faced by the rail system in Australia'”
Today, Shadow Transport Minister Fiona Simpson got the focus back to safety for political procrastination and funding arguments describing the Queensland Government’s staunch defence of its “risk model” for determining upgrades was “dangerous“.
The Transport Minister has responded with political bluster but within John Mickel’s bluster is some points worth noting.
“For example, she [Fiona Simpson] might want to familiarise herself with the research which shows that the overwhelming number of level crossing accidents are caused by road driver behaviour, and how more than half of the accidents happen at crossings where there are boom gates or flashing lights.”
Mickel goes on to say
“Under this [uniform national assessment] process a review of level crossing characteristics such as topography and visibility takes place, which is then combined with the volume of road and rail traffic. The assessed level of risk is then used to prioritise any work that needs to be done.
The approach developed by Queensland forms the basis of what is known as ALCAM – the Australian Level Crossing Assessment Model – which has now been accepted by all state Transport Ministers as the method to be used to evaluate railway level crossings across Australia.”
ALCAM is receiving a great deal of attention through the Victorian Parliamentary investigation into level crossing safety.
The need for uniform assessment processes is worthy but decisions on upgrading government infrastructure always considers the political imperatives, some would just, just as strongly as independent scientific advice.
Over decades workplace safety has developed assessment processes based on a range of techniques from plain observation to QRA, FEMA and many others. Only recently has OHS got to the point of realising that greater and longer-lasting safety can be achieved through designing workplaces safely from the beginning rather than trying to achieve safety through retrofitting. Recently in Australia, there is a growing movement to apply safety case techniques to workplaces that are not high-risk organisations.
Level crossing incidents, as do workplace fatalities, indicate that there was something not right with the initial design or that necessary safety improvements were permitted to lag behind the status and technology of the users of the facilities. The fact remains that there are too many unsafe level crossings in Australia and each fatality is generating a reactionary government response rather than instigating true leadership.
The Victorian Premier, John Brumby, “unveiled” publicly accessible defibrillators at the Southern Cross station in Melbourne on 6 January 2008. Australia has been relatively slow in the take-up of defibrillators as part of the non-professional first aid role. Partly this was due to the initial expense of each unit but also because workplace first aid legislation took some time to accommodate technology.
In most States of Australia, this was exacerbated by the emphasis on allocating first aid resources on the basis of need rather than a prescriptive basis and, anyway, how can you gauge where people will have heart attacks?
SafetyAtWorkBlog is wary about relying on technology to solve problems simply because it seems simpler. In the long-term, technology can be become cumbersome, unnecessarily expensive to maintain and often increasingly unreliable. It is suggested that a cost/benefit exercise of the new defibrillators in Southern Cross Station would show them to be an unnecessary expense. Direct cause and effect in terms of first aid is difficult to quantify. But then again, according to the Premier’s media statement:
“In the 2007/08 financial year, Ambulance Victoria responded to 133 emergency cases at Southern Cross Station, including five cardiac arrest incidents.”
Defibrillators were obviously not applied as quickly in those incidents as can be in the future but for those first aiders in this blog’s readership the following statistic can be quite useful.
“Victoria has the best cardiac arrest survival rate in Australia, with 52 per cent of patients arriving alive at hospital.”
Let’s hope that these defibrillators will stop the Southern Cross Station from being a “terminal”.
In the Melanie Griffiths movie, Working Girl, her character gained inspiration by linking an article in the social pages of a newspaper with a business article in the paper, much to Sigourney Weaver’s professional embarrassment. This week SafetyAtWorkBlog received a similar confluence of information.
Following a fatal level crossing collision in Queensland between a passenger train and a garbage truck, the latest in several crossing incidents, the Queensland Transport Minister, John Mickel, issued a media statement outlining his plans.
QR [Queensland Rail – a government-owned rail company] will target priority level crossings in North Queensland with $10 million approved today to start work immediately on implementing improvements identified by a joint QR Task Force involving train drivers and rail unions.
QR will also step up its community education and public awareness campaigns about the need for motorists to be vigilant when using level crossings.
Transport Minister John Mickel said the urgent funding allocation and expanded community education campaigns would put greater focus on the on-going issue of level crossing safety.
A similar type of announcement was made over 12 months ago by the Victorian Transport Lynne Kosky. In The Age on 6 January 2009, an article reported that the government has agreed to provide the roads authority with a $700,000 grant to paint
“new yellow markings at more than 50 intersections around the city.”
Connex [a private rail company whose contract is up for renewal] has reported a big increase in near misses at level crossings in 2008 at the same time it
“demanded the Government prevent cars queueing dangerously on roads at rail crossings after drivers and other Government agencies reported the rising problem.”
The yellow markings are to “indicate cars must not stop there”.
Apparently the government believes that drivers who push through traffic and get stuck on a clearly signposted level crossing are more likely to change their behaviour because there are now yellow lines painted on the road. The hierarchy of controls is not big in government policy thinking.
The New South Wales government (the State between Queensland and Victoria) instigated a program of grade separation in the 1930’s almost eliminating the problem of collisions. This required a vision of the future that is no different from the current circumstances – more people, more vehicles, more demand for public transport. That government chose to plan for the long-term benefit of the community that live beyond the next election cycles.
Let’s hope that the Queensland government looks for sensible safety planning from the State next door and not the one down South.
The following links on Victorian rail crossing incidents can be used as a starting point for a greater understanding of the safety and political issues:
The editors of SafetyAtWorkBlog produced SafetyAtWork podcasts several years ago. These interviews deserve some longevity even though some of the references have dated. In this context, SafetyAtWorkBlog is re-releasing a podcast from September 2006 on the management of drugs in the workplace. (The podcast is available at SafetyAtWork Podcast – September 2006 )
Professor Steven Allsop is a leading researching on the use of drugs at work and socially. Steven is also the Director of the National Drug Research Institute. In this interview he discusses amphetamine use, how to broach the issue of drug use with a worker and drug policies in industrial sectors.
Please let SafetyAtWorkBlog know of your thoughts on this podcast.
Work tools, such as the company car and the mobile phone, can be fun and functional but when used at the same time, the combination is deadly.
According to media reports a study by the Federal Department of Transport survey of 1500 drivers has shown that
[in Victoria] about 61 per cent said they had used a mobile while driving, up from 47 per cent in 2005…. More than one-quarter admitted reading a text message while driving, while 14 per cent said they had sent one.
Yet 42 per cent of drivers nationally supported any law banning the use of hands-free mobiles while driving.
Victoria Police caught more than 1800 drivers for mobile phone offences during the holiday period.
SafetyAtWorkBlog has mentioned previously that road safety research rarely logs whether a vehicle is being used for work purposes. The full survey report is not yet available and, to a large extent, the media reports have focused on activities related to the Australian h0liday season – alcohol use as well as texting.
When it is available, SafetyAtWorkBlog will report on any data that could indicate the use of work vehicles as it is inaccurate to simply use road safety data as an overlay of occupational activities.
The use of company vehicles is a complicated area due to the status of the vehicles changing depending on whether the vehicle is a “pool vehicle” or whether the vehicle is able to be used for private purposes. The one vehicle could be both a work vehicle and private vehicle at different times of the day. This is the challenge for OHS professionals – to deal with a workplace and an employee who is neither of these 100% of the time. Unless this status is clarified, any potential policy on mobile phone use whilst driving remains problematic. Yet the hazard remains.
WorkSafe Victoria released a safe driving guide in November 2008 that acknowledges the hazard but clearly leaves it up to the employer to determine the appropriate policy:
The TAC (Transport Accident Commission) and WorkSafe recommend that hands free calls be kept to a minimum and reserved for emergency type calls.
Handheld mobile phone use is illegal and should not be considered under any circumstances while driving. Texting or reading texts or caller ID should not be done at any time whilst driving.
Without definitive advice from regulatory bodies but with mounting evidence of the heightening risk of injury and property damage, it will be a brave company that bans the use of mobile phones whilst driving (the ideal OHS control measure). However, this is one of the risks faced when evidence of hazards is called for but we don’t like the evidence.
England’s Health and Safety Executive monthly podcasts are an interesting variation on the obligation of OHS regulators to communicate with its clients. These podcasts follow the format of a corporate newsletter
- Special interview/s
- Further information
Most of the news will be familiar to those who regularly visit the HSE website or subscribe to one of their RRS feeds but the podcast is a good summary of the regulator’s activity.
The feature interview/article is a good mix of talking with regular business operators, visitors to the HSE exhibition stand at Aintree racecourse, and promotion of HSE links.
The secondary article focusses on the use of vehicles at work, such as delivery vans. The article supports a vehicle-at-work website but, as has happened in some of the Australian States, safety in this sector has often not been seen as an OHS obligation, or at least a difficult one to implement, and has been dominated by transport and road safety legislation. Some of this advice is a diversification of the forklift and transport yard safety practices to a broader audience and application.
As a teaser and a signpost to online resources in the HSE website, the podcast works well. For those outside of the UK there is probably more to learn from the podcast construction and its existence, than the information content.
Many safety professionals are so internet-savvy in 2009 that their state-of-knowledge on OHS (or at least the information in their PC that they have yet to get around to) has rarely been higher.
The podcast should be heard for lots of reasons. A major one for me in Australia was to hear the accents of people in my hometown. Some listeners who are unfamiliar with scouse may want to read parts of the transcript.