Missed lessons from work-related traffic incidents

Cover of Work-related-fatalities-involving-trucksIn early 2014 a truck driver drove his vehicle into an intersection, collided with a car resulting in the death of four out of five members of one family. The truck driver, Jobandeep Gill, has been sentenced to 10 years jail.  Video of the incident site shows a company name on the side of the van.  It is not possible to determine who Gill was driving for or what his employment status was but, regardless of this, it seems a work vehicle was involved in the death of four people, and therefore occupational safety laws (OHS) may have been broken.

It is accepted by OHS regulators that a truck is a workplace for the driver and that OHS responsibilities of all workers include

“… take reasonable care for the health and safety of persons who may be affected by the employee’s acts or omissions at a workplace…” (Section 25 of the Victorian OHS Act 2004)

On 25 November 2015, Dr Rwth Stuckey stated at an ISCRR seminar that:

“WRR (work related road) crashes [are the] leading cause of traumatic work-related fatality & injury in most westernised countries.”

So why don’t OHS regulators follow-up WRR crashes by interviewing the truck owners or the employers of the drivers?  Perhaps statistics don’t support Dr Stuckey?

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Can Broken Windows Theory help OHS?

There are very few innovations that originate from within the occupational health and safety (OHS) profession.  Most of the change seems to come from the application of external concepts to workplace activities and approaches.  Recently a colleague was discussing how some of the current OHS initiatives mirror the “broken windows” concept which originated in criminology in the United States.  In some ways Broken Windows Theory mirrors OHS positives but it may also reflect some of the negatives or OHS dead-ends.

Ostensibly Broken Windows Theory discusses how attention to small improvements may generate cultural change.  However the improvements introduced seem to have different levels of success depending on the context in which they are applied.  For instance in OHS, a construction site may mandate that protective gloves are worn for all manual activity but if there is a variable level of manual handling risk, the wearing of gloves will be an accepted practice in one area but haphazard in another.  The intention of a mandated safety requirement is to change the risk and safety culture of a workplace but the different levels of risk mean that the requirement can be seen as “common sense” in one area but unnecessary “red tape” in another.

The criminological application of the theory reached its peak in New York City in the 1980s and 1990s.

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What is behind guest blog articles?

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Over the last 12 months, SafetyAtWorkBlog has received many unsolicited “guest posts” and almost all of these include links back to commercial sites that have some relationship to the author.  I consider this advertising and reject the posts.  However the writers and, sometime, public relations agencies could be coming cleverer.  The following article is not about workplace safety per se but if safety professionals and others are going to rely on safety information available on social media, Facebook, blogs etc. it is essential they can have faith in the reliability of this information.  Below is a record of a brief search for such reliability in a blog article submission, a search for reliability that all blog owners should consider.

An unsolicited guest post was submitted to SafetyAtWorkBlog by Brooke Kerwin on 6 March 2012.  A sample article was requested with a brief profile of the author.  An article was received entitled “Employees in Automobile Industry Face Changing Safety with Technology“.  The article ( that “I have written specifically for your blog”) contained three links – two to category links within the SafetyAtWorkBlog and one to distracteddrivinghelp.com.  The third link actually related to the subject matter of this article but as there was no profile provided for Brooke Kerwin, I searched for the name through the internet.

On March 8 2012, Brooke Kerwin had a guest post published at Rethinking Patient Safety.  That article had one link to the Rethinking Patient Safety blog, a link to National Patient Safety Week and a third link to distracteddrivinghelp.com. Continue reading “What is behind guest blog articles?”

What the mobile phone/cancer study means for workplaces

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Over the last few days there has been considerable media attention around the world about the Interphone study into mobile phones and cancer.  The report says that there is an increased risk of some brain cancers for heavy mobile phone users but is this a concern for employers who are obliged to provide a workplace and work activity that is without risk?

The Interphone study is important for many reasons but ultimately it established an anchor point or a reference point on mobile phones and cancer.  The fact that it was largely inconclusive, in this context, is far less important.  Professor Bruce Armstrong summed up his take on the report in a media briefing on 18 May 2010 where he acknowledged continuing uncertainty on the hazard of brain tumours and mobile phones.  Listen to Prof. Armstrong below:

Continue reading “What the mobile phone/cancer study means for workplaces”

Survey shows continuing increase in mobile phone use while driving

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The use of a mobile phone while driving can be very dangerous for other vehicles, pedestrians and drivers themselves.  New communications technology has been devised to accommodate the less-new technology of mobile phones but in itself hands-free technologies are masking the risk.

Although this hazard is across the driving community, there is particular relevance for workplace drivers as their status complicates the arguments against talking or texting while driving and provides additional control measures. Continue reading “Survey shows continuing increase in mobile phone use while driving”