Managing safety on a high risk TV program

Roger Graham (left) and Todd Sampson talking safety

This article was originally published on May 15 2017 and I was reminded of it this week when talking to a colleague about the management of safety on some of the current home renovation programs.

It’s a long and, I think, fascinating article that suits a leisurely weekend read.


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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Exclusive Interview with Dr Tom Doig

SafetyAtWorkBlog had the chance to put some questions to Dr Tom Doig in early 2019 prior to the book’s release. Below is that exclusive interview.

SAWB: “Hazelwood” is predominantly a book that describes the social and environmental impacts of the Hazelwood. What, if any, overlap did workplace health and safety (WHS) and WorkSafe Victoria have in the fire’s aftermath?

TD: In the aftermath of the mine fire, a number of WHS issues have come to the fore. Firstly, in the 2014 Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry, a number of criticisms were made of Hazelwood’s regulatory framework, with a suggestion that there was a ‘regulatory gap’, as expressed by Mr Leonard Neist, Executive Director of the Health and Safety Unit at the Victorian Workcover Authority (VWA), at that time:

‘If I identify that gap as, who is responsible for regulating for the protection of public safety, regardless of what the source of the hazard or the risk is, who’s responsible for public safety, that’s where the gap probably is and I can’t—if you were to ask me right now, I can’t tell you who is responsible for regulating public safety. I’m responsible for regulating workplace safety and responsible for public safety as a result of the conduct of that undertaking, but I couldn’t tell you who is directly responsible.’

In this case, while VWA focuses on the health and safety of mine employees, they aren’t explicitly concerned with the health and safety of the general public, if a hazard – like a 45-day plume of toxic smoke – is dispersed beyond a specific workplace.

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Running before you can walk on COVID19 and Mental Health

On May 15 2020, the Australian Government released a National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan. Mental Health has been on Prime Minister Morrison’s agenda since his election a year ago and the mental health sector is not going to be starved of government funds during his tenure.

Mental ill-health has been talked about throughout the current COVID19 Pandemic and has been forecast to increase due to the economic disruption and the requirements for social isolation. To some extent, the low numbers of COVID19 deaths in Australia has allowed it a “luxury” of addressing mental health, but some of the justifications seem not as strong as claimed and the National Mental Health Plan omits any consideration of occupational health and safety (OHS) other than for those in the health industry; the so-called “frontline workers”.

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We are now our grandparents – fearful but adaptive

This blog transitioned from a self-published magazine almost 12 years ago. In 2003, the magazine published an edition focussing on the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome ) outbreak which includes a long article by Peter Sandman and Jody Lanard on epidemics and fear, an emotion that many of us are feeling in these uncertain times. The full magazine is available for subscribers below.

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COVID19 and the management of change

People wearing masks in Little India Mustafa Center Singapore Covid-19 Coronavirus

It is very hard to write about any occupational health and safety (OHS) issue in this time of a global pandemic. Many of the workplace hazards continue to exist but in a different context and, of course, the duty of care on both employers and workers continues wherever work is being done. Australians, understandably, have an insular focus at the moment, but there is some benefit from looking at how national disruption has been handled elsewhere in the recent past. COVID19 is not SARS, but Singapore’s action in 2003 is useful in showing how change can be managed. This change management is likely to be a more integral part of effective OHS management for all Australian businesses once the pandemic declines.

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“…the first thing you are going to want to do is organise the earliest survivors… into delivery people”

In 2005 I was able to interview prominent risk communicator, Peter Sandman. It was a time of pandemic threats from Avian Influenza, or “Bird Flu”, and we talked about pandemics, their complications and their management. The virus situation has progressed enormously from 2005 to today’s announcement by the World Health Organisation of a coronavirus pandemic but I provide access to this interview to offer a different and historical perspective on the current outbreak of coronavirus. I also had to include my tips for managing coronavirus in Australian workplaces.

Of most interest and relevance, perhaps, is this statement from Peter Sandman:

“If you really think there is going to be a severe pandemic, the first thing you are going to want to do is organise the earliest survivors, the people who get the flu and don’t die, into delivery people. Then they can deliver food and fuel and everything people need so that everyone else can stay home .”

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Resilience training remains contentious

The issue of resilience training and its role in managing workplace mental health continues to confuse at a recent mental health conference.

Yesterday, several experts were critical of resilience training or, more accurately, the over-reliance on worker-focussed interventions when evidence shows that more sustainable benefits are obtainable by addressing the structural factors leading to poor mental health at work. One of the experts specifically said that resilience training may be relevant to emergency services workers where their workplaces are so dynamic that it is almost impossible to anticipate mental health hazards.

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