Yesterday Australia opened its National Workers Memorial in Canberra. The Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten, spoke at the ceremony with, largely, an edited and reduced version of the speech he presented in Brisbane earlier last week. The Canberra speech dropped all the ANZAC Day references and spoke about the importance of remembering.
“By erecting this monument, we tie the lives and memories and families of thousands of Australians to this place. We stand here in this place as a mark of respect from a civilised community as an expression of failure and regret. That’s what all memorials are, and this one is no different. This is a symbol of the mourning for those lost too early from our tribe Australia.” More…
On the 28 April edition of the ABC TV show, Insiders, Gerard Henderson displayed a common misunderstanding about the role and existence of regulations. In discussing the childcare industry Henderson, Executive Director of the Sydney Institute, said that regulations always increase business costs, as if regulations are the start of a process when regulations are almost always a reaction to a hazard, an abuse, an exploitation or a risk.
Business leaders seem to be incapable of understanding that they have the power to reduce what they see as OHS red tape by changing their behaviours, perhaps by embracing and implementing safety leadership.
Many politicians and commentators have linked recent factory explosions and collapses around the World Day for Safety and Health at Work on 28 April. More…
“…has called on the designers and manufacturers of quad bikes to urgently reconsider improving the design of quad bikes so they are not prone to roll over.”
This sounds a sensible and safe suggestion but independent Australian research is still to be completed on whether these work vehicles are prone to roll over as a result of their design, and not simply driver (mis)behaviour.
Hoy notes that people continue to die whilst riding quad bikes and is quoted saying:
“We cannot sit by and watch people being killed and seriously injured by these vehicles. Everyone has a responsibility for quad bike safety but it must involve a safer product. We need to ask ourselves how much a life is worth opposed to the cost of a crush protection device.”
Quad bike designers and manufacturers have been emphatic in their position that rollovers are, primarily, the fault of driver behaviour and that crush protection devices are likely to contribute to rollovers or exacerbate worker injuries from rollovers. More…
The memorial has been coordinated by the National Capital Authority who has established a website for this memorial. The website will have live coverage of the inauguration ceremony at 11.00am AEST. More…
Shorten states an occupational health and safety principle:
“…we know [workplace deaths] are preventable. They are not accidents.
Let me repeat this: by far most deaths and serious injuries are predictable safety failures.
It’s not a systems’ failure or risk assessment failure, or hazard identification failure…and all those other handsome words without tears.
It is the failure that springs as a readymade monster from the knowing tolerance of small daily hazards at the daily tasks.” (emphasis added)
Even given the qualifications in the highlighted statement above Shorten believes workplace incidents are safety failures that occur due to a “knowing tolerance” of hazards. The risk is not in the hazards themselves but in our tolerance of these hazards. More…
At many occupational health and safety seminars and conferences in Australia there is often an OHS professional in the audience who says that jail time is the only real and effective deterrent for those breaking safety laws, usually in the context of gross negligence, reckless endangerment or industrial manslaughter. The threat of imprisonment is indeed a deterrent for some people.
But sometimes there is an OHS professional who colours their call for imprisonment by suggesting that, once in prison, offenders should be harmed or even raped. An example appeared on an OHS discussion forum within the last week. The comment, on an issue of fall prevention, included this phrase:
“Only need to send a few for a short holiday with “Bubba” and some soap on a rope, to get the message across to the masses.”
This person is suggesting that the deprivation of liberty is insufficient punishment for an OHS offence and that the offender should also be raped. What does this say about the real values of a person whose profession is based on harm minimisation and the elimination of hazards?
If, as The Guardian newspaper says, the two main principles for jail are ”in order to punish wrongdoers, and to remove the danger they would otherwise pose to the wider world”, where is the justification for abuse?
The “Bubba” comment above, and many similar comments I have heard over the years, may be an extension of the cynicism that many OHS professionals seem to acquire over their time in the profession. But it is also offensive and shows an approach to humanity that I do not share and that I believe has no place in the OHS profession, or anywhere, for that matter. It is lazy thinking, and these thoughts come from those who advise Australian businesses! It is a shameful situation.
“If it can’t be measured, it can’t be managed”* has been a mantra of business for decades but all measurement can be corrupted. One of the most contentious elements of occupational health and safety (OHS) is the measurement of safety performance and a recentprosecution in the United States provides an important lesson for OHS managers everywhere, even though details are scarce.
“On Apr. 11, 2013, Walter Cardin, 55, of Metairie, La., was sentenced to serve 78 months in prison followed by two years of supervised release…. after being charged by a federal grand jury with eight counts of major fraud against the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), an agency of the United States.” [link added]
According to the US Attorney’s Office
“Cardin generated false injury rates which were used by the Shaw Group to collect safety bonuses of over $2.5 million from TVA. … Cardin was convicted of providing the false information about injuries by underreporting their number and severity… The evidence presented at trial encompassed over 80 injuries, including broken bones, torn ligaments, hernias, lacerations, and shoulder, back, and knee injuries that were not properly recorded by Cardin. Some employees testified that they were denied or delayed proper medical treatment as a result of Cardin’s fraud. Evidence showed that Cardin intentionally misrepresented or simply lied about how the injuries had occurred and how serious the injuries were.” [link added]
There are many safety management issues related to the conduct of Walter Cardin. More…
“If you need to use that, you’ll almost certainly die,” says fall prevention expert Carl Sachs, pointing to a guardrail on the rooftop of a multi-storey Melbourne office block.
Fixed to flimsy aluminium flashing, the guardrail flies in the face of several mandatory and voluntary standards but Sachs says non-compliances are more the norm than the exception on Australia’s rooftops. The problem, he says, is that height safety equipment installers need no training or qualifications and nobody is checking that their work really is capable of saving lives.
“Australians wouldn’t accept unqualified electricians wiring our houses but, as it stands, all you need is a ute, a credit card and a cordless drill to install the safety gear that stops us falling off skyscrapers,” he says.
It’s a concern echoed by, plumbers, building surveyors, facility managers and builders.
“Whilst due diligence principles can be applied and all care taken to ensure that height safety systems are adequate, without some form of regulation or certification, workers are placed at risk of serious injury everyday due to a lack of knowledge and regulation specific to fall prevention,” Mr Naylor says.
SafetyAtWorkBlog has written previously that the term “safety” seems to have fallen out of favour with some preferring terms such as “zero harm”. In November 2012 I wrote:
“In some ways, “safety” has become an ineffective term, even a negative term in some areas. It is understandable that some companies and safety professionals would wish to rebrand their skills or activities as something else, like Zero Harm, but a more sustainable strategy would be to work on having Safety regain its credibility.”
I was reminded of this when reading an article in the latest edition (71) of Industry Update, a safety equipment publication that publishes many advertorials. Dr Marcus Cattani wrote:
“I don’t use the “safe” word anymore! The “s” word has such a poor reputation I find it can turn people away.
If people turn away from “safe” as a word this places great pressure on the safety strategies of OHS regulators and governments. Does the community believe that safety is different from what the regulators believe? I don’t think so and reckon that the success of the fundamental social values espoused through the various incarnations of WorkSafe Victoria’s Homecomings advertisement illustrates the common understanding of safety. More…