Ask not what WorkSafe can do for you, but what you can do to improve safety

One of the most difficult industries in which to achieve4 occupational health and safety (OHS) improvements is farming, especially in areas where farming continues to be done by small family units. The safety culture of farming is unique as the workplace is embedded in community and rural culture. Some people believe that OHS regulators have given the agricultural industry an easy run for too long, as stated by Mick Debenham in a recent opinion piece in The Weekly Times (paywalled), but farmers should perhaps ask themselves why people continue to die on their farms and what they can do to change this.

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Biden reverses Trump’s position on workplace safety

It is fair to say that the term of office for President Trump was not supportive of occupational health and safety (OHS). Former President Trump did not seem to see the need for OHS regulations and his attitude to the COVID-19 pandemic meant that it would never be considered as an occupational disease. Reports over the last week in the United States media, and the issuing of an Executive Order, indicate that new President Biden values workplace health and safety.

The New York Times (paywalled) is reporting that

“President Biden directed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration [OSHA] on Thursday to release new guidance to employers on protecting workers from Covid-19.
In one of 10 executive orders that he signed Thursday, the president asked the agency to step up enforcement of existing rules to help stop the spread of the coronavirus in the workplace and to explore issuing a new rule requiring employers to take additional precautions.”

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Creating a scaffolding standard that already exists?!

The judgement against GN Residential Construction P/L, part of the Ganellen group, is now publicly available. GN/Ganellen pleaded guilty to work health and safety breaches that lead to the death of a young worker (Christopher Cassaniti) and serious injuries to another worker (Kahled Wehbe), and was fined $900k. The judgement provides much more detail than the media reports at the end of last year, with important information about scaffolding and also a requirement to establish a “Scaffolding Industry Safety Standard Working Group”. The curious part of this latter requirement is that New South Wales has had an industry standard for scaffolding since 2008.

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WorkSafe Victoria’s COVID19 OHS investigations

WorkSafe Victoria and its CEO Colin Radford have been pilloried by a couple of political and economic commentators recently, especially over the handling of the Hotel Quarantine Program. Radford and WorkSafe have wisely not reacted to the loudest voices and have continued their work investigating COIVID19-related breaches of the occupational health and safety legislation.

One of the accusations of the commentators is that the OHS regulator has been slow to act. The Herald-Sun newspaper published an article on January 7, 2021 based on the list of companies being investigated but mentioned only a handful. The full list is included below.

Newspapers must make editorial decisions in relation to newspaper space so the omission of the full list is understandable. However, the online version, for which space is not an issue, still omitted the list or at least a hyperlink to the list. The online and printed articles are almost the same except that the online version omits the name of Australia’s largest hardware stores, Bunnings, from the first paragraph; an editorial decision (or error) that is hard to understand.

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“exponential increase in mental injuries in the workplace” and other statements in a Victorian Parliament committee

Three years ago, WorkSafe Victoria indicated that it would consider prosecuting farmers for breaches of occupational health and safety (OHS) laws. That possibility seems to have disappeared based on the latest Minister for Workplace Safety’s appearance at the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC).

Ingrid Stitt‘s appearance centred on questions related to the 2020-21 Budget Estimates and touched on Industrial Manslaughter, gig workers, mental health, and construction and farm safety.


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Work-related mental health remains contentious

This article is about SafeWorkNSW’s recently released Draft Code of Practice for Managing the Risks to Psychological Health, but it is not going to focus on the Code.  Instead the focus will be on the supplementary Explanatory Paper because this presents the rationale for the Code’s contents and, in many ways, is a more useful tool for occupational health and safety (OHS) discussions. However, just as the Code has structural and legislative limitations as part of its Purpose, the Explanatory Paper is a support document for submissions on the Draft Code and therefore has its own limitations.

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No lessons in the Dreamworld penalty

Coomera, Queensland, Australia – January 9, 2018. Exterior view of entrance to Dreamworld theme park, with stairs, building and people.

The iconic Australian theme park, Dreamworld, will never fully recover from the consequences of the deaths of four people after the Thunder River Rapids ride malfunctioned in 2016. The legal journey through the Queensland Courts finished on September 28 2020 with the handing down of a financial penalty of $3.6 million, although others could say the journey ended with the parent company’s, Ardent Leisure’s, plea of guilty, and others may pursue Ardent Leisure for civil penalties, if they can access details of Ardent Leisure’s insurance policies.

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