New book on a neglected area of OHS research

Helen Lingard and Ron Wakefield have published one of the few books to look at how occupational health and safety (OHS) is structured and managed in government-funded infrastructure projects in Australia. Their new book, “Integrating Health and Safety into Construction Project Management” is the culmination of over a decade’s research into this area. The book is both a summary of that research and a launching pad for designing OHS into future infrastructure projects.

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Scientific Meeting challenges

There is a difference between a conference and a scientific meeting. The latter, like the current meeting of the Australia and New Zealand Society of Occupational Medicine (ANZSOM), provides evidence.  The former tries to provide evidence but is often “infiltrated” by salespeople or the evidence is of a lesser quality.  Both are avenues for gaining information and sometimes the gaining of wisdom.

Day 1 of ANZSOM’s annual scientific meeting was heavy on overhead slides, graphs, Venn diagrams, flowcharts and at least two appearances of photos of Donald Rumsfeld!  There was a curious thread in several presentations – the role of non-occupational factors on workplace hazards and interventions.  This bordered on a discussion of political science and its relevance to occupational health and safety (OHS).  It was a discussion that is rarely heard outside of the basement of the Trades Halls and the challenging questions from die-hard communists and unionists, but it was an important one.  Some time soon we deserve a one-day seminar on the politics of workplace health and safety so that we can better understand what we mean by the lack of political will when we whinge about the slow pace of change. (There will be more on this theme in the exclusive interview with Professors Maureen Dollard and Sally Ferguson soon)

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Consumer Product Safety System review should be on the OHS radar

Following on from the product safety theme in yesterday’s article, it is noted that the Australian Treasury has opened a consultation phase on improving the effectiveness of the Consumer Product Safety System. The report makes specific reference to workplace health and safety laws.

This consultation is a direct result of the recent review of Australian Consumer Law:

“The Australian Consumer Law Review final report recommended the introduction of a General Safety Provision (GSP) into the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) requiring traders to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of a product before selling it onto the market.”

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The GSP has similarities to the duties of the PCBU (person conducting a business or undertaking) under the model Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws.

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Pimp your administrative controls

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Safety risks increased, or created, by distraction are a problem as relevant to occupational health and safety (OHS) as it is across society. There are analogue solutions – remove the distracting devices – and technological solutions that are often embedded in the distracting device. Sometimes there are other solutions and one is being trialled at a small intersection in Melbourne.

These illuminated tactile pavers have been embedded in the footpath applying the logic that as people are looking down at their phone screens, a bright contrasting floor level background should attract their attention. These footpath lights are synchronised with the pedestrian traffic lights, basically bringing the traffic signals within the peripheral vision of pedestrians.

Several variations on this concept have been trialled around the world for traffic and pedestrian control but they may be more usefully applied in some workplaces, especially where passive hazard signs have become normalised.

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Long commute times need to be factored into OHS structures

The mainstream media reported on the release of new demographic statistics from the latest HILDA survey (Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia). Most of the attention is on the increasing commuting times to and from work in the urban centres. Traffic is not usually an occupational health and safety (OHS) issue but traffic congestion reduces the effectiveness of our social recuperation and recovery structures and work/life balance initiatives.

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