New quad bike poster establishes a safe operation benchmark

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In July 2011, it was noted that the quad bike manufacturers had revised the wording of  their poster about quad bike safety.  The website that provided an online version of that poster is now under redevelopment.  However Australia’s Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities (HWSA) has released its own poster outlining the basic elements of quad bike safety in Australia and New Zealand.

The poster advises that:


Find out whether a quad bike is the best vehicle option for your farm.

Politics slows the safety regulation process in Australian oilfields

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On 8 August 2011, the Australian Financial Review (not available online) reported on a letter from the head of the National Offshore Petroleum Safety Agency (NOPSA), John Clegg, that criticised the Western Australian government’s regulatory regime for offshore petroleum exploration.  The crux of the letter was that WA does not require energy companies to develop a “safety case” for their offshore operations.

The letter referred specifically to the Varanus Island pipeline explosion under the control of Apache Corporation.  The AFR paraphrased the letter:

“…Clegg said….that given WA legislation at the time of the Varanus Explosion it was “doubtful” that Apache Corporation, the US operator of Varanus, had any obligation to adhere to a “safety case”, the crucial tool for management of oil and gas field safety.”

The “safety case” requirement for complex processing industries originated after the inquiry into the Piper Alpha disaster of 1988 and has become a default safety management process in many jurisdictions around the world. (UK’s Health & Safety Executive has some excellent background resources on this)

The political arguments between State and Federal jurisdictions will be a major impediment to safety reforms in this industry sector – a tension to which few in the Eastern Australian States may give adequate attention.  The tension echoes the continuing conflict over OHS harmonisation laws. Continue reading “Politics slows the safety regulation process in Australian oilfields”

Fatigue management is getting clearer but is competing for attention

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As a discipline for study, fatigue still seems to be in its early days and this presents a challenge for safety professionals and researchers.  Everyone knows what fatigue is because at some time we all suffer it, but try to define it and it is different things to different people.

Transport Safety Victoria (TSV), a division of the Department of Transport, brought together three speakers on the issue of fatigue management in early August 2011.  The public seminar provided a good indication of the complexity of the occupational issue of fatigue management.

The first revelation in the seminar came from Dr Paula Mitchell who stressed that fatigue cannot be self-assessed.  Researchers are struggling to create a widely accepted indicator for fatigue.  There is no blood alcohol reading device for fatigue and the Independent Transport Safety Regulator in July 2010 expressed caution on the application of the bio-mathematical fatigue model. Continue reading “Fatigue management is getting clearer but is competing for attention”

Prompt investigation is essential to prevent injuries

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Injuries at work are often dismissed as Report Only or other category that does not require an investigation.  But all incidents should be investigated and promptly.  A recent prosecution of a tuna company in South Australia illustrates this point well.

SafeWorkSA’s media release provides basic details:

“On the 23rd of January, a male employee suffered deep lacerations to his right index finger while attempting to clear a blockage of cardboard in a caser machine, which seals cardboard boxes.

On the 11th of February, a female employee suffered a serious hand injury when trapped by moving parts in the same unguarded opening of the same machine.

The male worker recovered from his injuries quickly, and but the female worker sustained serious bone, nerve and tendon damage, that left her right hand permanently impaired.”

The court was told that the investigation into the first incident was poor.  In fact the Industrial Magistrate, Stephen Lieschke, described it as “incompetent”. Continue reading “Prompt investigation is essential to prevent injuries”

Governments need to coordinate resources for small business OHS needs

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This August the Victorian Government is conducting a month-long event the Small Business Festival.  The Festival is run by the Department of Business and Innovation and promises to

“…provide attendees with the essential inspiration, skills and information to start, build and run a business.”

Occupational health and safety does not feature.  WorkSafe Victoria, the state OHS regulator whose mission is

“Working with the community to deliver outstanding workplace safety, together with quality care and insurance protection to workers and employers.”

WorkSafe operates a small business support service.  It produces guidance material on workplace safety targeted to the small business sector.  In its own WorkSafe Week, it provides presentations to medium-sized businesses but it is not participating in a Small Business Festival organised by one of its colleagues in the State Government. Continue reading “Governments need to coordinate resources for small business OHS needs”