Engineering controls are possible, and they save lives

The issue of quad bike safety has largely disappeared from the mainstream media. This is largely due to the decline in opposition to installing Crush Protection Devices (CPD) on newly-purchased quad bikes in line with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) mandated safety standards. On November 24 2022, the ACCC released statistics that showed the success of applying an Engineering Control (the CPDs) favoured by the safety advocates over the Administrative Controls (training, signage and dynamic riding) favoured by the manufacturers and their lobbyists.

The quad bike safety saga in Australia, in particular, is a textbook study of farm politics, globalisation, belligerence, the ownership of evidence, the macho culture of independence, manipulation of consumers, ineffective politics, ineffective occupational health and safety (OHS) arguments, the power of money and more. (There’s an important book challenge to anyone who has the time and the resources)

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Stress dressed up as burnout

One of the impediments to a discussion about mental health at work is the discussion of burnout. There is little doubt that burnout is real, but often it is used as a synonym for mental illness, which is confusing workers and employers, making the prevention of psychosocial harm seem more complex than it is.

Recently a Sydney-based fintech company called Flare released a discussion paper or guide advising on how to manage burnout. It said:

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Industrial Manslaughter and marketing

Industrial Manslaughter was always going to generate some workplace safety marketing at some point. In this week’s Australian Financial Review (23 September 2022, page 23, paywalled), Inspectivity paid for a full-page advertorial promoting its data collection and analysis products. It mentioned that its products could help to reduce the risk of being prosecuted for Industrial Manslaughter. But what does this say about one’s customers and their attitude to providing safe and healthy workplaces if the avoidance of personal accountability is the ”hook” for the sale?

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Worksafe Victoria’s new gendered violence campaign

WorkSafe Victoria has actively campaigned against occupational violence for the last few years. The pandemic, understandably, brought the focus onto violence against emergency services workers and healthcare staff. Recently the campaign has focussed on gendered violence at work. The intention is to be inclusive, to address the variety of violent acts and the variety of people gendered violence affects, but it is not as inclusive as it could be.

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How will people know you’ve won a safety award?

Modern-day events such as conferences, seminars and awards nights rely on social media strategies to maximise the value of the event and the communication opportunities they afford. This year the WorkSafe Victoria Awards night seems to have applied a thin social media strategy even though it has important stories to tell.

Usually, signs, brochures, information booklets and even tables mention the social media hashtag that the event organisers want the audience to use to promote and record the event. This year WorkSafe Victoria mentioned #WSAwards21 at the night’s start and never again. The hashtag was nowhere to be seen. This may be a major factor in the very low Twitter activity.

As of the time of writing, Twitter had 29 mentions of the #WSAwards21 hashtag, most posted by WorkSafe itself. I tweeted five of them. The audience members or finalists have tweeted only three times.

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Farm safety is unique, not

Australian farmers feel they work in a unique safety culture into which work health and safety laws have intruded. This intrusion by government and bureaucrats will persist regardless of the number of work-related incidents that happen to farmers, workers and relatives and the children of farmers.

All farmers and parents advise their workers and relatives to be safe, but this applies a broader range of safety to what is considered in cities and other industries. As far as is reasonably practicable (ASFAIRP) takes up a bigger, greyer range of safety on farms.

This uniqueness and occupational health and safety (OHS) perspective were on display in a recent farm safety article in The Weekly Times, a major Australian agricultural newspaper. The article “Farm Safety Focus Urged to Avoid Tragic Consequences”*, looked at two scenarios. One involved a childhood horse racing injury and a later adult motorcycle traffic collision (Dave Lovick); the other was an adult work-related quadbike incident (Kat Gration).

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A traditional farm safety campaign with tweaks

For the last few years, farm safety has been dominated by arguments over the safety of quad bikes. Squabbles continue in Australia, but that topic is largely over, and many are returning to a broader and more contemporary approach to health and safety in farming.

It looks like WorkSafe Victoria has begun to roll out its farm safety ambassadors with Catherine Velisha on the cover of a recent edition of Stock and Land newspaper and in a Youtube video. This is supported by a full article on page 3 with an additional article in a glossy supplement provided with WorkSafe’s support.

The article is a blend of promotion for Velisha’s farm management training company and media releases from WorkSafe Victoria. The occupational health and safety (OHS) statistics are new but not very different from previous statistics. Middle-aged men continue to be a feature of the fatality statistics, and 58 on-farm deaths happened in 2020, the same as the year before. Quad bikes have been a major factor in those deaths.

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