Grenfell Tower and other incidents illustrate major deficiencies in OHS perceptions

A recent investigative report into workplace safety at Los Alamos laboratory in the United States included this statement:

“The Center’s probe revealed worker safety risks, previously unpublicized accidents, and dangerously lax management practices at other nuclear weapons-related facilities. The investigation further found that penalties for these practices were relatively light, and that many of the firms that run these facilities were awarded tens of millions of dollars in profits in the same years that major safety lapses occurred. Some were awarded new contracts despite repeated, avoidable accidents, including some that exposed workers to radiation.”

The whole article deserves reading but this paragraph in particular illustrates that deficiencies in procurement apply to large organisations in high risk sectors just as much as it can in the small to medium-sized business sector.  A major reason is that detailed and diligent procurement has been seen as red tape and it seems to have taken disasters like Grenfell Tower to illustrate the moral deficiencies and short-term economic fantasies of

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The challenges of Todd Conklin

Earlier this month SafetyAtWorkBlog published an article based on an anecdote by Todd Conklin about a glove.  There was much more that Conklin shared at the SafeGuard conference in New Zealand.  Below are several of his slides/aphorisms/questions that may challenge the way you think about managing occupational health and safety (OHS) in your workplace.

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Insurer-led rehabilitation case management does not work

On the eve of a Return-to-Work symposium in Hobart, Alex Collie, challenged the a seminar audience, as all good speakers should.  His analysis of research data has found the following confronting information:

  • “main service delivery mechanism (case management) is ineffective at best, harmful at worst,
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Do open plan offices and sit/stand desks create as many problems as they solve?

The mainstream media regularly includes articles and, increasingly, advertorials, about the modern workplace, usually office buildings, that are designed to foster creativity, communication, productivity and improve physical health.  In many of these workplaces, it quickly becomes apparent that there are never enough meeting rooms for confidential discussions, making the coffee shop in the foyer or a nearby building, essential venues for conversations that would, in the past, be conducted in an office.

It also does not take long for a lot of the workers to be at their desks wearing earbuds or headphones in order to negate the noise that the modern workplace allows and creates.  This need for isolation and concentration is contrary to the intentions of the office designers.  It is not simply a reflection of the modern ipod technology but a human desire for privacy, focus, diligence and productivity.  New research  seems to indicate that the situation is not helped by sit/stand desks.

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Safety in licencing is not limited to fishing

On 26 May 2017, NT WorkSafe announced that Austral Fisheries Pty Ltd was charged over health and safety breaches that resulted in the electrocution of Ryan Donoghue.  Enforcement of occupational health and safety breaches should be welcomed but Donoghue died in 2013!  Why so long?

NT WorkSafe regret the delay:

“The location of the vessel meant the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland and NT WorkSafe potentially had jurisdiction to investigate.”

“The preliminary findings from our investigation were handed to Workplace Health and Safety Queensland after we received legal advice that they had jurisdiction,” Mr Gelding [Executive Director of NT WorkSafe] said.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland completed their investigation on 3 March 2015 and decided not to prosecute. The Northern Territory Coroner held an inquest into the accident in April 2016 and referred the matter to NT WorkSafe for consideration.

Why so long? Jurisdictional arguments and enforcement variation.  But didn’t Australia establish a National Compliance and Enforcement Policy in 2011?   Yep,

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Both parties claim a win in a stoush that changed a couple of words

The court case between the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) and WorkSafe Victoria has been resolved and, according to both parties, they both won.  According to WorkSafe Victoria:

“The Supreme Court proceeding issued by Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and other quad bike manufacturers against WorkSafe Victoria was dismissed just prior to a trial that was listed to commence yesterday.

The manufacturers had wanted the Supreme Court to rule that WorkSafe’s public announcements about quad bike safety were unlawful. The challenge has been dismissed and will not proceed to trial.”

According to FCAI’s media statement:

“In the Supreme Court proceedings, WorkSafe Victoria specifically declined to pursue a claim that the fitment of an OPD is an appropriate way of reducing the risks to operators of an ATV overturning. It has produced no data or other evidence to support its claim that OPDs will “save lives”.

The revisions now made by WorkSafe Victoria are welcomed by the ATV industry as an important clarification to correct previous reporting that, as a result of its March 2016 announcement, OPDs had become mandatory on Victorian farms. That was not the case, as WorkSafe Victoria has now acknowledged, as a result of the legal proceedings taken against it.”

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Managing safety on a high risk TV program

Roger Graham (left) and Todd Sampson talking safety

Todd Sampson has created a niche in Australian television by challenging himself in mental and physical tasks.  His latest program is “Life on the Line“. What is intriguing about this type of TV program is how occupational health and safety (OHS) is managed in a way that does not impede the aim of the show.

SafetyAtWorkBlog spent some time with the safety adviser on the show, Roger Graham, to better understand the demands of advising film and TV productions on workplace safety.  The exclusive interview is below.

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What do we want from a workers’ memorial?

When anyone dies, it is important to remember them and their relatives as well as those we did not know personally but who also grieve.  Public recognition of deceased workers is a recent phenomenon, even though we have commemorated and noted industrial disasters for over a century.  Memorials have always provided a symbolic focus for our attention and grief with the hope that these memorials motivate people to reduce the chances of a workplace death occurring to others.

But worker memorials need to be carefully considered and designed to be inclusive as Death visits all workplaces regardless of the religion of the workers, their ethnicity, the location of the fatality or the workplace conditions.  On the eve of International Workers’ Memorial Day for 2017, it may be time to rethink the memorial to deceased workers in Melbourne, Victoria.

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Hi-viz and safety – it’s all about the context

High visibility clothing has spread from the work site to the public arena and, as such, has complicated the reasons for hi-viz clothing.  However the fundamental underpinning of high-viz is to contrast against the surrounding environment. This contrast does not only relate to clothing but also signage.

Several years ago, a couple of women from Tasmania visited the offices of SafetyAtWorkBlog to discuss the practicality of hi-viz vests for toddlers and small children.  The hi-viz logic of the work site is easily applied to the public park or farms.  A contrasting colour to the trees or bushland would make it easier to identify someone, like a wayward child.  On a work site, the hi-viz is more about identifying a hazard, whether that be a person, an overhead wire or a work boundary.

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