Three Australian Safety Alerts – asbestos, rollercoaster and tilt-up construction

Workcover New South Wales issued three safety alerts in early April 2010 that deserve attention.

New South Wales seemed to have a spate of faults on amusement rides over the last few months – Ferris wheelrollercoaster (with video).

The safety of amusement rides in Australia has always been problematic.  Only a couple of decades ago, government authorities had inspectors whose sole task was to inspect these machines, as part of a government’s duty to protect its citizens.  OHS inspectorates tend to take the position that if they take too close an interest in a safety issue some of the responsibility rubs off to them, in the public mind.  So the inspectorate steps back from its direct involvement with community safety and supports the employers and businesses in empowering them to ensure safety.  The logic is the responsibility should stay with those who legislation says it should.

In most instances, the logic is sound but when there is a trend of failures that increase the risk of the public being injured, is the government’s strategy of non-, or indirect-, intervention the right one?

The line is a very difficult one to judge both in position and coverage.  It is a little easier when a workplace is clearly defined or the public are excluded but those workplaces are becoming fewer, so delineation is more challenging.   However this should not encourage regulators to side-step the challenge.

Kevin Jones

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