Jim Ward is hardly known outside the Australian trade union movement but many people over the age of thirty, or in the occupational health and safety (OHS) profession, may remember the person Esso blamed for the Esso Longford explosion in 1998. Just after the nineteenth anniversary of the incident that killed two workers and injured eight other, SafetyAtWorkBlog interviewed Ward about the incident but, more significantly, also about how that incident changed his world view.
For some time now Jim Ward has been the National OHS Director for the Australian Workers’ Union. Here is a long interview with Ward that provides a useful perspective on OHS while Australia conducts its National Safe Work Month.
[Note: any links in the text have been applied by SafetyAtWorkBlog]
SAWB: Jim, what happened at Longford, and what did it mean for you.
JW: So, on 25 September 1998, I got up out of bed and went to work, just as I’d done for the previous 18 years of my working life, at the Esso gas plant facility at Longford in Victoria.
There was nothing unforeseen or untoward about that particular day. But due to, as one judge elegantly described it, “a confluence of events”, it turned out to be the most significant day of my life.
Sidney Dekker is a leading, and influential, voice in thinking about safety. His latest book, “The End of Heaven – Disaster and Suffering in a Scientific Age” is intriguing. In a couple of weeks SafetyAtWorkBlog will have an exclusive interview with Dekker about this book and other related issues but in the meantime here is a list of chapter topics as described by Dekker in his Preface. Compared to his earlier books, this book’s intrigue should be obvious.
It is the twentieth anniversary of the explosive demolition of the Canberra Hospital. The demolition was meant to be an implosion but instead debris scatter well outside the designated safety zone resulting in the death of one person and injuries to nine. Such events are significant at the time but fade from memory until anniversaries are noted, however, there are important occupational health and safety (OHS) lessons from such incidents which do not have the drama of a Piper Alpha or a Challenger but are nevertheless as instructive.
Last week Australia benefited from a safety roadshow based around screenings of the Deepwater Horizon movie and post-film discussions with Cheryl MacKenzie who was appointed as the lead investigator by the US Chemical Safety Board, and by Peter Wilkinson, an adviser to CSB’s investigation of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The seminars were popular with full sessions in some capital cities.
The format of such seminars is attractive as the film can be used as an icebreaker and/or the pivot point for discussions. MacKenzie and Wilkinson’s discussion focused on oil and gas safety scenarios but there was enough non-specific information for take-aways.
More such events would be a good idea perhaps using a range of the available safety-related documentaries that are released, almost, ever year such as
This week Australia has been experiencing a safety roadshow built around the Deepwater Horizon movie and two guest speakers. The afternoon sessions have been well attended and the discussion fruitful but does the film improve the viewers’ understanding of safety or misrepresent it?
Continue reading “Is the Deepwater Horizon movie good for safety?”