Rumours of a TV report on the increasing hazards of silicosis have floated around for a week or so. On October 10 2018, the show appeared on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s 7.30 program. But the story is much bigger than the ten minutes or so on that program.
The focus is understandably on silica but perhaps that is too specific. Maybe the issue of dust, in general, needs more attention.
Occupational health and safety (OHS) related decisions are made on the state of knowledge about hazards and it is up to OHS people to make sure the state of knowledge is at its best so that the best decisions can be made. But what do you do if the state of knowledge on a hazard seems to be made purposely uncertain and that uncertainty is leading to the status quo, which also happens to provide a huge income for the owner of the product creating the hazard.
This seems to be a situation at the moment in Australia in relation to the use of the weedkiller, glyphosate, marketed heavily by the global chemical company, Monsanto. The alleged corruption of data on which OHS people and workers base their safety decisions was perhaps one of the most disturbing elements of the recent ABC Four Corners program on the chemical (
Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews announced a State-supported program to install solar panels on an estimation of 65,00 homes if his Labor Party is re-elected this November. This election campaign announcement immediately reminds voters of the last government-sponsored “green” program, the Home Insulation Scheme which, amongst other results, lead to the deaths five workers.
It’s Jacaranda season in New South Wales which increases the pleasure of visiting the State for a safety-related conference. It has been over a decade since SafetyAtWorkBlog attended a conference of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Association of Australia (HFESA), little has changed in the organisation of the conference as HFESA had this conference pretty well organised even a decade ago.
The conference is a comparatively small affair with around 100 delegates, a minimal trade exhibition and only three streams. But that is all that is needed. The focus is on two elements:
- good quality presentations, largely from HFESA members; and
It is perhaps the latter where HFESA has it over some of the other safety-related associations.
In 2014, Glen Turner, an environmental officer with the New South Wales government was murdered will inspecting agricultural properties for illegal land clearing. Turner was shot repeatedly by local farmer Ian Turnbull, and died at the scene in front of his work colleague, Robert Strange. 79-year-old Turnbull was found guilty and jailed but died 12 months into his prison term. Due to pressure from Turner’s family, the NSW Government has announced a coronial inquest into the death and the circumstances leading up to it.
Several media reports acknowledge that Turner was killed while at work but the occupational health and safety (OHS) context of the shootings and the actions leading up to the incident has not been investigated except where it led to Turnbull’s trial. Indications are that the coronial inquest will look at this perspective.