OHS and Professor Lin Fritschi

Professor Lin Fritschi is a cancer epidemiologist with a particular interest in occupational causes of cancer. Lin’s work often pops up in the occupational health and safety (OHS) sector and research journals but SafetyAtWorkBlog has never met her and wondered what she thought about OHS.

This article is the latest in the series of hearing different voices from academics and prominent workplace safety people.

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When is a workplace, not a workplace

(Not Reedy Flat)

On 20 February 2017, WorkSafe Victoria issued a media statement about several recent fatalities.  Below is the first couple of paragraphs with some highlighted text:

“Two men were killed and another suffered critical head injuries in three separate incidents at the weekend.
On Saturday, a man in his late 30s died when his quad bike overturned on a property at Reedy Flat, near Ensay, in east Gippsland. It has not yet been determined if the property is a workplace or a hobby farm.” (emphasis added)

Why was the status of the farm mentioned and how is this relevant?

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Inconsistent quad bike safety advice in WA

agricultural_health_safety_checklist_01-pdf_extract_page_1On 18 January 2017, WorkSafeWA released an agricultural safety checklist which includes some hazards associated with quad bike operations. West Australia’s occupational health and safety (OHS) regulator stresses the checklist only lists common hazards and refers to a handbook.  The only agricultural handbook available on its website is from 2014 and the quad bike safety information seems outdated or, at least, inconsistent with the advice from South Australia and elsewhere. Continue reading “Inconsistent quad bike safety advice in WA”

Latest quad bike safety advice is more measured

quad-bikes-children-pdf_extract_page_1SafeWorkSA has released a series of single page safety advices on a range of occupational health and safety (OHS) topics including the use of quad bikes in agricultural workplaces.  The information included and the tone used indicates that the debate over quad bike safety may be settling.

The advice is clear and concise with some new safety perspectives but there are a couple of odd elements. The advice does say that the suitability of a quad bike should be assessed prior to purchasing but doesn’t suggest alternatives.  These options should be expanded elsewhere on SafeWorkSA’s website or farming publications. Continue reading “Latest quad bike safety advice is more measured”

Labour Hire Inquiry recommends a licencing scheme

Following, ostensibly, the Four Corners exposé of labour hire exploitation in Australia last year, the Victorian Government established an inquiry.  That Inquiry’s final report has been released with lots of recommendations, several pertaining to occupational health and safety (OHS).  The Government’s media release response is HERE. The main recommendations related to OHS are: I recommend…

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Does accessing government assistance need to be so hard?

Nothing is ever easy in farming.  Several Australian States have introduced a rebate scheme to help farmers improve the safety of the quad bikes so the vehicles, also inaccurately called All Terrain Vehicles (ATV), should be made safer. The argument over safety has persisted for many years and has resulted, most recently, in rebates for safety improvements provided by the government.  However, two States – Victoria and New South Wales – have different processes to accessing these rebates and the NSW process seems to deter farmers from applying for the rebates.

caution ATV signThe Victorian Government’s rebate scheme is administered through WorkSafe who provides a Frequently Asked Questions which is simple and clear.  The dates of activity are listed and, primarily, proof of purchase is the main document for eligibility. Victorian farmers can obtain a rebate for:

“$1200 for the purchase of an alternate vehicle such as a side-by-side vehicle (SSV) or a small utility vehicle (SUV). The alternate vehicle must be designed for use in agriculture and at point of sale have rollover protection and a fitted seatbelt. Sport vehicles and small commercial vehicles, such as utes, are excluded.

Up to $600 for the purchase of up to two operator protection devices (OPD). The OPD must have been designed and manufactured in accordance with approved engineering standards and independently tested to be eligible for the rebate. There are currently two OPD devices that meet this criteria and are eligible for the rebate. They are the Quadbar™ and the ATV Lifeguard.”

The NSW process is funded by SafeWork NSW with a complex set of terms and conditions.  The purchase options seem narrower but the major difference in the two rebates schemes is New South Wales’ insistence that farmers must attend an “educative interaction”.  According to a SafeWork NSW FAQ farmers are required to:

  • “get along to a Farm Safety Day run by SafeWork NSW or one of its program partners
  • visit the SafeWork NSW stand at an Agricultural Field Days
  • request a free on-farm Workplace Advisory Visit and we will come to you
  • attend one of the 100 training events being offered by Tocal College.”

SafetyAtWorkBlog has been told that farmers find this to be condescending and are suspicious of SafeWork NSW’s intentions, particularly in relation to the “free on-farm Workplace Advisory Visit”. Such visits are likely to be SafeWork NSW’s preferred option as there are only a limited number of Field Days available every year. WorkSafe Victoria does not insist on educative interactions as part of the rebate scheme which increases NSW framers’ suspicions.

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) recently released a new video to support its claims that Operator Protection Devices (OPD) or Crush Protection Devices (CPD) “are not the answer“.  The FCAI has been out of step with the issue of quad bike safety for many years and it is difficult to sympathise with its position when governments are “endorsing” OPDs through rebate schemes.

The FCAI’s position seems to be shortsighted as the rebates are encouraging farmers to apply a Gordian Knot solution to the bickering over quad bike safety.   Both the NSW and Victorian rebate schemes encourage farmers to purchase side-by-side vehicles (SSV) which, due to the framework over the driver, have no need for the OPDs on offer.  SSVs are more expensive than quadbikes but can be seen as endorsed safer options by the regulators of safety in each of the States.

Having dug in to a contrary position of additional safety measures on quad bikes, the FCAI is getting more out of step with the regulators’ positions and the safe desires of farmers and farming families.  But perhaps criticising the FCAI is unfair, after all, it is a body representing the interests of automotive manufacturers.  Generations have grown up equating motor vehicle manufacturing with safety, ever since “Unsafe at Any Speed” was published in the 1960s, but the FCAI seems different.  It has its own definition of workplace safety that is not in step with government or safety regulators.

Farmers, like all business operators, need to decide for themselves who they trust more for their own safety – regulators or salespeople.

Kevin Jones

 

NSW Gov’t announces first quad bike safety rebate program

On 10 June 2016, the New South Wales Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation Victor Dominello announced a $A2 million rebate program to improve safety associated with the use of quad bikes on farms.  According the media release (curiously released late on the eve of a national long weekend):

“The NSW Government will be offering rebates of up to $500 towards the purchase of compliant helmets, Operator Protective Devices, the purchase of a safer vehicle, such as a side-by-side vehicle, and undertaking training courses tailored to farmers.”

The rebate package seems to tick all the safety boxes and should make a difference. Continue reading “NSW Gov’t announces first quad bike safety rebate program”

Irony in tragedy masks an interesting legal career

On Sunday 23 May 2016, Queen’s Counsel Ross Ray died after being pinned under a rolled over quad bike on his Victorian hobby farm.  According to one early media report, he was not wearing a helmet nor was his quad bike fitted with a crush protection device (CPD). In the past he has represented quad bike manufacturers who object to devices that can protect this type of incident.  If the report is true, his death appears ironic but Ross Ray was involved in a lot more occupational health and safety cases than just quad bikes. Continue reading “Irony in tragedy masks an interesting legal career”

Labour Hire Inquiry submissions address OHS, sort of

The Victorian Government has concluded the public hearing section of its inquiry into Labour Hire. Industrial Relations Minister Natalie Hutchins has said in a media release that

“Evidence has been put to the inquiry suggesting widespread  underpayment of award wages, tax avoidance, nonpayment of superannuation, poor occupational health and safety practices, maltreatment of workers and backpackers on visas, and, in some instances, allegations of illegal conduct.”

This article focusses on the occupational health and safety (OHS) evidence provided through the

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Queensland plans for a safety culture for quad bikes

[Guest Post from Dave Robertson of Quadbar]

Cover of QLD Quad Bike Plan_2016-2019On March 3 2016, the Queensland government released its “Statewide Plan for Improving Quad Bike Safety”. The document covers a wide range of issues but risk controls like substitution and engineering only get small mention.

According to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations,  Grace Grace, the government intends

“…to create a safety culture through education and awareness as the immediate first step toward improving safety outcomes for quad bike users and their passengers.”

It must be noted that the plan covers occupational and recreational use of quad bikes but it is also important that the Statewide Plan does not indicate how the success of the plan and the safety culture model will be assessed.

Continue reading “Queensland plans for a safety culture for quad bikes”