One safety quandary solved by Consumer Law. What others are possible?

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Last week the Australian Government accepted the recommendations of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) about improving the safety of quad bikes. But the improvement in safety came not through occupational health and safety (OHS) laws but the Australian Consumer Law so how could the ACL help improve workplace health and safety further? After a quick look at how the quad bike recommendations have been received, the potential of the ACL is considered in relation to silicosis.

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The reluctant acceptance of quad bike safety changes

One important stage in improving the safety of farm vehicles was completed on October 10 2019 with the acceptance by the Australian Government of recommendations to make Operator-Protection Devices (OPD) mandatory for all quad bikes in Australia. That decision is a substantial achievement that many have lobbied, and fought, over for many years, but it will not save every farmer’s life as quad bike use has always only ever been one part of the occupational health and safety (OHS) risks on farms.

The Australian Government’s recent announcements on this issue have also been a little odd.

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More safety in politics

Here’s a quick summary of several mentions of occupational health and safety (OHS) in the various Parliaments in Australia over the last week or so.

Answers to Questions on Notice

In Parliamentary Committees, speakers often put questions “on notice” as they do not have the answer at hand. Often these questions fade from memory but answers do appear, usually. A good example has been provided in the South Australian Parliament on September 11, 2009 with the Treasurer, Rob Lucas, providing answers to questions from Estimates Committee B on July 24 2019. For the number junkies out there, according to Hansard, in 2018/19 SafeWork SA:

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Safety in politics this month, so far

Occupational health and safety (OHS) discussions in the various Parliaments in Australia rarely get much media attention, but the debates continue and occasionally there is an interesting suggestion. Here are some of the recent parliamentary discussions that SafetyAtWorkBlog found interesting

Quad Bikes in Tasmania

In response to a question on August 8 2019 Liberal Party politician, Leonie Hiscutt, provided an outline of the budget allocated to the rebate scheme being applied to quad bikes and their safety accessories, but of more interest is the question from Independent Ruth Forrest. She asked:

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What’s the fuss? Stay focused on safety

The debate about quad bike safety has gone global with the United States telling the World Trade Organisation that the imposition of operator protection devices (OPDs) on general quad bikes (those not used for recreation or sport) may be a trade barrier. To some this would appear silly, and the argument has little to do with worker safety, but this action by the US impedes progress on safety.

Recently the Victorian Coroner made findings into the quad bike-related death of 69-year-old farmer Gustaav Walta in September 2017. The finding is not yet publicly available but the story of Walta’s death sounds very familiar.

One evening around 6pm Walta advised his friend that he was putting the sheep away. His friend did not receive the regular phone call the next morning and drove to the property finding a quad bike that had rolled over and Walta’s body in an adjacent paddock. It was determined that Walta had died from severe chest injuries caused by the quad bike incident, that he had been ejected from the bike, the bike rolled over him and he then had tried walking to a neighbour’s property before he collapsed and died.

The chronology in the Findings is not very clear on Walta received his chest injuries but what is clear is that, like so many before, the quad bike had not been fitted with an OPD and that Walta had not been wearing a helmet.

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