Canada begins developing a National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace

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Mental health is attracting a huge amount of attention in western countries but much of this has a public health focus.  Workplace mental health is not getting enough attention even though, correctly applied, this collective term could include the occupational hazards of stress, bullying, depression and suicide.

Canada has leapt ahead of most countries by committing to develop a National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace.  According to a backgrounder on the initiative, the Standard

“…will be a stand‐alone voluntary standard. It will provide a methodology that will lead to measureable improvements in psychological health and safety for Canadian employees in their workplaces.”

Significantly, the business case for the Standard is expected to result in

  • enhanced cost effectiveness,
  • improved risk management,
  • increased organizational recruitment and retention [and
  • increased] corporate social responsibility.

This Canadian initiative has considerable merit and may provide the (non-regulatory) glue that is needed to supply a business-friendly management structure for a range of workplace mental health issues that are being combatted in isolation from one another.  Workplace depression is fighting for attention against bullying which is battling out of a subset of stress……… Continue reading “Canada begins developing a National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace”

Tasmanian Workers’ Memorial Park officially opened

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Workplace safety is littered with good intentions that are not fulfilled but thankfully Tasmania has followed through on a pledge to create a workers’ memorial park.  SafetyAtWorkBlog reported on the design launch by the, then, Minister for Workplace Relation Lisa Singh, two years ago.

The Tasmanian Workers’ Memorial Park, located in Elizabeth Gardens, Launceston, was opened in beautiful winter sunshine on 18 June 2011. Photographs of the park’s official opening are to be provided.  Unions Tasmania Secretary Kevin Harkins said in a media release (not yet available online)

“…it is hoped that those affected by a workplace death would use the site as a memorial to their lost family member or friend, and that people walking through the park would be reminded of the need to be safe at work.”

This type of horticultural memorial provides a place of reflection for many issues and worker safety is as legitimate as any other issues but what needs to be reinforced is the purpose of the park.   It is common to wander through a park and be oblivious of that park’s significance.   Continue reading “Tasmanian Workers’ Memorial Park officially opened”

Quad bike poster distracts from the evidence

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Not only are quadbike manufacturers resisting the inevitable, they have gone on the attack with posters being distributed that criticise the installation of crush protection devices (CPD)s, safety devices increasingly being recommended by safety advocates, farm safety specialists and government departments in Australia.

According The Weekly Times on 16 June 2011, Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Polaris and Kawasaki and others are promoting a safety message through the poster (pictured right).  This position was hinted at in Dr Yossi Berger’s comments on a previous blog posting.

The major rural newspaper reports a curious position that may indicate that criticism of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) may be misplaced.

“FCAI motorcycle manager Rhys Griffiths said it was the manufacturers’ decision to put the posters up, and “we had no part in printing it”.

The FCAI was “yet to go public with our message other than to have the industry position paper available”.” [links added]

There is no mention of this poster campaign on any of the manufacturers’ website mentioned above.

The FCAI may claim not to gone “public” on this poster campaign but the industry position paper is, at first glance, damning of the roll bar options available.  However a close reading of the industry paper on rollover protection structures shows a large number of equivocations and conditional statements.  There also seem to be blanket conclusions from some comparisons of dissimilar ROPS.

The debate continues and seems to be evolving into the public relations arena.  This is very unfortunate as the evidence, the issue of the safety of riders of quadbikes in the workplace, can become clouded by spin.  Up to this point the arguments have been about the research evidence.  The poster is an unhelpful distraction.

Kevin Jones

Australia to ratify ILO OHS Convention, says Senator

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The Australian Financial Review (AFR) reported on 14 June 2011 (not freely available online) that Senator Jacinta Collins has publicly stated that an International Labour Organisation (ILO) occupational health and safety convention will be signed by the current Government in conjunction with other conventions on maritime labour, asbestos and part-time work.  The announcement that “Australia will ratify four ILO Conventions this year” was made at the recent International Labour Conference.

Most of the AFR article focussed on the labour relations impacts of the conventions but RMIT’s Professor of Law, Breen Creighton noted that

“Ratifying a convention has no effect in Australian law unless the Australian parliaments legislate to give effect to the international obligations.”

Senator Collins’ speech identifies the OHS protocol as the “Optional Protocol of 2002 to the Occupational Health and Safety Convention”.

A brief discussion on this protocol occurred on this blog in late April 2011 when the ratification was mentioned during the World Day for Safety and Health at Work.

Kevin Jones

Quad bike manufacturers resist the inevitable

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Pressure is increasing on the manufacturers of quad bikes in Australia and from a variety of sources.

The Weekly Times newspaper continues, almost fortnightly, to report on the safety debate about the use and design of quad bikes.  The 9 June edition has a double-page spread on the issue with many direct quotes from “players” in the debate.  The fact that a national rural newspaper has devoted this level of column inches is indicative of the controversy.  The Australian metropolitan dailies have not followed this lead but, as we have seen in previous blog posts, major New Zealand papers have covered the issues.

Some Australian government departments are applying the cautionary principle under legislative occupational health and safety (OHS) obligation and have restricted the use of quad bikes pending risk assessments.  SafetyAtWorkBlog has heard that one department, New South Wales’ National Parks & Wildlife Service, has passed through the assessment phase  and will be fitting Crush Protection Devices (CPDs) to their quad bikes by the end of August 2011.

A source close to the debate has told SafetyAtWorkBlog that

  • There is an increased likelihood for coroners’ inquests in a number of states;
  • The quad bike industry has begun formally misrepresenting the value of CPDs in posters, of which several have been provided to quad bike distributors; and
  • The industry continue to assert that research shows CPDs cause more harm than good but provide no evidence of this. Continue reading “Quad bike manufacturers resist the inevitable”