OHS needs innovative thinking to manage fatigue

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The December 2010 edition of WorkForce Management magazine (not available online) reports on a recent US survey concerning fatigue. The raw data is not available but the survey of 820 companies showed that over 80 per cent of respondents believed that fatigue was more of a workplace issue that in the past.

This may indicate an increased awareness or an increased reality but regardless, the hazard is gaining more attention.

Of greater interest is the possible causes identified in the survey. These include:

  • “Reduced head count,
  • Lack of boundaries between home life and work,
  • Second jobs,
  • A culture of ‘wanting to do it all'”.

How many of these contributory factors can an OHS professional affect? Continue reading “OHS needs innovative thinking to manage fatigue”

Only animals should die in abattoirs

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The Sunday Age of 30 January 2011 ran an article about the status of workplace safety in some of Victoria’s abattoirs.  The article has some similarities to the landmark investigations by Eric Schlosser into work practices and compensation issues related to meatworks in the United States.

The Sunday Age says that

“(Last financial year [2009/2010], there were 355 workers’ compensation claims in Victoria’s meat industry that required at least 10 days off work, or cost more than $580 in treatment, or both – almost one a day. Nationally the industry’s injury and illness rate remains twice as high as that in the construction industry, and four times the average of all workplaces.”

Many would say that meat work is “inherently dangerous” but in the article lawyer Trevor Monti, contests the perception

”Yes, it’s a difficult industry and the work can be hard,” he says. ”But with proper consideration given to the system of work, the risk of injury can be significantly reduced.”

This is a position with which OHS professionals and regulators would agree.

It is significant that, if the comparative figures quoted above by the Sunday Age are accurate, abattoirs do not receive the enforcement attention that the construction industry receives.  Is it that the construction industry is largely unionised and the meat industry much less so?  Is it that abattoirs are rorting the immigration visa system as asserted by the Australian Meat Industry? Continue reading “Only animals should die in abattoirs”

Quad bike fatality costs over $80k in penalties

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A Western Australian company has been fined $A50,000 over the death of one of its workers in November 2008  The worker rode a quad bike into a wire gate and died.  The recent WorkSafe WA media release focuses, understandably on the fine imposed in the Perth Magistrates’ Court on Jenara P/L but a clearer picture of the incident is available from an earlier WorkSafe report into the incident.  The accused, in this instance, was Seatown Holdings, a labour hire firm who was fined $A30,000 :

“The accused was a labour hire company which employed a worker for remuneration and arranged for said worker to work for Jenara Pty Ltd who was one of its clients.

The client ran a grain growing farm near Miling.

During the afternoon on Sunday 16 November 2008 the worker was working alone and riding an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) on a road on the client’s farm when he rode into a wire gate known as a ‘cockies gate’. Continue reading “Quad bike fatality costs over $80k in penalties”

Harsco’s safety award rescinded due to anomalies in injury claims data

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The awarding of safety awards by government OHS authorities in Australia have needed reviewing for some time.  There remains inconsistencies on the openness of the judging processes and differences in award categories. In 2009, John Holland’s award nomination was withdrawn and now, according to the a video report on TV program Today Tonight in Adelaide, another safety award has been withdrawn.

According to the Today Tonight (click on SafeWork story on the left of the screen or in archives) South Australian manufacturing company Harsco has had its award withdrawn because the company fudged its safety performance figures.  The media release issued on 21 January 2011 by SafeWorkSA, the regulator managing the state-based awards, says:

“After careful consideration, the Panel has decided to rescind the award presented to Harsco Metals in the category of Private Sector Employer of the Year on the basis of anomalies in the interpretation and presentation of injury claims data made in the award entry.”

SafeworkSA is at pains to stress the ongoing integrity of the awards process but this action, emphasised by the attention given to the issue by Today Tonight, is a serious blow. Continue reading “Harsco’s safety award rescinded due to anomalies in injury claims data”

Laboratory safety begins with design

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Laboratory safety is often treated as a specialist area of occupational safety due to the potential harm from the material being handled but also because the laboratories often exist in universities, isolated work environments in many ways.  Kansas State University (KSU) is obviously very proud of its Biosecurity Research Institute that, it claims, has considered all elements of safety in all stages of construction and operation.

A researcher works with materials in a biosafety cabinet in the Biosecurity Research Institute at Kansas State University. A biosafety cabinet is a safety enclosure that uses HEPA filters and directional airflow to contain pathogens.

The article that KSU has released on line is a little promotional in tone but there is enough information in it to illustrate the high level of planning that was given to the project.  There may not be much new information for those already involved in laboratory safety but it is a useful example of the need for preparatory work in establishing a safe working environment that also ensures product integrity.

Kevin Jones