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?
I once had to stop a potential fight on a construction site between a works supervisor and a safety professional. The verbal abuse and niggling occurred for several minutes before the men’s chest were inflated like roosters and it was at this point I stepped in to diffuse the situation by asking some questions as…
SafeWorkSA has released a series of single page safety advices on a range of occupational health and safety (OHS) topics including the use of quad bikes in agricultural workplaces. The information included and the tone used indicates that the debate over quad bike safety may be settling.
The advice is clear and concise with some new safety perspectives but there are a couple of odd elements. The advice does say that the suitability of a quad bike should be assessed prior to purchasing but doesn’t suggest alternatives. These options should be expanded elsewhere on SafeWorkSA’s website or farming publications. Continue reading “Latest quad bike safety advice is more measured”
SafetyAtWorkBlog originated from the SafetyAtWork magazine, a PDF subscription magazine that ran for a few years. In October 2001 we published a special edition of the magazine focussed on the 9/11 disaster. It has some exclusive articles and other safety content from a range of authors. We have made it available for the first time through this blog to mark the 15th anniversary of the event.
Dr Maureen Hassall (pictured below on the left)says that mining has done great work in improving safety but the fatality rate has not dropped even though there has been some fluctuation. And the catastrophes have had similar causes. So why are mine workers continuing to die?
Perhaps another question should be asked on whether the penalties for recurrent fatalities need to be escalated across the industry? Perhaps it could be possible to apply penalties across an industry sector, such as mining.
The Safety Institute’s Safety Convention is becoming more conventional where the radical discussions of the first session today are being diluted. A significant question asked was all of this information is available but so what? What do we do to use this disruption? Those questions are what persist in delegates as they move to diverse streams and back to traditional safety discussions.
Dr Hassall spoke about the importance of defining control mechanisms and the need to assess and investigate and that mine safety has focused on devices, plant and equipment. Her presentation was curious because some of the most exciting OHS issues in mining have involved safety management – Digging Deeper – or the mental health of fly-in fly-out workers. There was no discussion of these risks even though they contributed to work-related fatalities. (Maybe I was in the wrong session or frame of mind)
There is also confusion in the delegates over the role of the Hierarchy of Controls and Critical Control Management. It seemed odd that a new approach, Critical Controls, was being proposed so many decades into OHS legislation when Controls were supposed to have already been well understood. Maybe disruption can come late to the party but still be effective.
Dr Hassall’s presentation supports the use of and collation of data digitally and in real time but the challenges that are present in mining, as identified by Dr Hassall needs discussion to clarify, which is one of the advantages of being at a safety conference.
Dr Gerry Ayers‘ (pictured above on-screen) presentation was all about death. He went through a list of construction industry deaths and importantly provided a personality to each of the deaths – who was left behind, who was affected by the death. Every safety conference needs this type of presentation to provide the real behind the theory.
Ayers’ presentation fits the theme of this conference because, as he says, there is nothing more disruptive than a workplace fatality. Some may see his presentation as focussing on the past with little pathway to the future and it would have been better to have Ayers in the audience so that he could contribute to the previous disruptive discussions, but his presentation was rightly described as sobering.
Trish Kerin (picture above, middle)of the Institution of Chemical Engineers Safety Centre spoke about the catastrophes in the process industries. To some extent, Kerin’s presentation illustrates the criticism of Dr David Borys about the gap between research dominated by inquiries into disasters and the safety management of the majority of businesses that exist in the small business sector. Disasters are politically significant so that is part of the reason.
The IChemE Safety Centre seems to be trying to redress the inhumanity that seems to have existed in process safety for decades. For a long time, process industry disasters have mostly been academic puzzles of what went wrong. Even when why what went wrong is considered, the attention was rarely on the leadership and executive (mis)management. This changed with Longford and Professor Andrew Hopkins’ report on the resultant Royal Commission. In the US, this changed with Texas City and Deepwater Horizon. It needs to continue more and before the next disaster.
This session has been very conventional compared to other sessions but the first session of the day did set an almost unreachable benchmark. It was one of those sessions whose importance is not realised until seen in the context of the whole conference.
On 10 June 2016, the New South Wales Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation Victor Dominello announced a $A2 million rebate program to improve safety associated with the use of quad bikes on farms. According the media release (curiously released late on the eve of a national long weekend):
“The NSW Government will be offering rebates of up to $500 towards the purchase of compliant helmets, Operator Protective Devices, the purchase of a safer vehicle, such as a side-by-side vehicle, and undertaking training courses tailored to farmers.”
The rebate package seems to tick all the safety boxes and should make a difference. Continue reading “NSW Gov’t announces first quad bike safety rebate program”
Talking about workplace safety and machine manufacturing is unfashionable, perhaps because Australia’s manufacturing capacity is in strong decline. And occupational health and safety (OHS) seems preoccupied at the moment with psychosocial hazards and wellness. But one Australian researcher, Elizabeth Bluff, has undertaken an empirical study of safety attitudes, motivations and practice in the manufacturing and OHS regulatory sectors and produced a remarkable book that needs to be read by everyone involved with workplace health and safety.
“In illuminating the mechanisms underlying manufacturers’ responses for machinery safety the research also makes wider conceptual and theoretical contributions. It provides insights into knowledge and motivational factors as principal elements shaping firm performance for social and regulatory goals, and advances understanding of how these elements are constituted in the everyday operations of firms and their interactions with external actors.” (page 3)
Work Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) recently revealed some early research into the Return on Investment (ROI) of occupational health and safety (OHS) controls. (Thanks to a reader for pointing it out) According to its website:
“Recent pilot research in several Queensland organisations found clear evidence of the cost effectiveness of safety interventions, including:
- an automatic shrink wrapping machine at Rexel’s Tingalpa distribution centre that had an ROI of around $1.82 for every $1 of costs, and a payback of upfront costs of less than three years
- an ergonomics intervention at BP Wild Bean Cafés with an ROI of $2.74 for every $1 of costs and a payback within the first month
- a workplace health and wellbeing program at Port of Brisbane that had an ROI of $1.58 for every $1 of costs and a payback of 15 months.”
None of this “pilot research” is publicly available so it is not possible to verify the data. (WHSQ has been contacted for further information for a follow up blog article)
“Marrying health and wellness with design, the WELL Building Standard is catching on fast in the West, but the trend is just starting to take off in Asia.”
This statement is debatable but the recent concern over cheap, flammable cladding in high-rise buildings in Australia should speed up the attention on Safety in Design principles that underpin such initiatives. Continue reading “Green Building can generate OHS returns”
It always surprises me when clients and colleagues ignore the Hierarchy of Controls when deciding what control measures to introduce. Recently Oregon’s OSHA released a podcast about the Hierarchy of Controls which shares some of my concerns.
It was concerning that the podcast stated that some hierarchies place Administrative Controls on the same level as Engineering Controls and that some consider fall protection devices as Engineering Controls due the engineering of the anchor point (a dubious engineering control as this blog has discussed previously).
Below are several quotes from the 4 minute podcast Michael Wood of Oregon OSHA.
“A control that fully eliminates the hazard is always preferred to one that does not.”
“The hierarchy improves the control’s reliability.”
“The hierarchy of control recognises that perfection in human performance can not be attained.”
This short podcast is a good quick reminder to occupational health and safety professionals but could also be discussion catalyst on basic hazard management.