Heat

The occupational risks of exposure to excessive heat have usually been assessed in remote locations in Australia, and almost exclusively for outdoor workers. The changing environmental conditions, regardless of the global cause, are changing the risk assessment of heat for outdoor workers and, increasingly, indoor workers such as those in food production or kitchens.

Recently Safe Work Australia released a seminar online which discussed the issue of heat in the occupational health and safety (OHS) context.

The panel discussion operates from the perspective of what can be done rather than what could be done and remains within the occupational context. Professor Dino Pisaniello mentioned his recent research into the issue, which looks like it was meant to be the focus of this seminar and which found:

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Solar panel pledge incorporates workplace safety

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.

Unsurprisingly,

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Asbestos – out of sight but not out of mind in Asia

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By Melody Kemp

Hmong uplander with child. Source: Melody Kemp

Asbestos resembles polio. Just when you think it’s beaten, it returns like some ghoul. If you think this is overly dramatic, last year Laos was struck by a polio outbreak. This year we learned that Laos now ranks amongst the globe’s major importers of asbestos. And it’s driven by cynical market forces targeting poorer nations, inadvertently promoted by international aid. Continue reading “Asbestos – out of sight but not out of mind in Asia”

Health, safety and climate change

Sydney, Australia - October 19, 2016: Construction workers set up scaffolding in a construction site.
Sydney, Australia – October 19, 2016: Construction workers set up scaffolding in a construction site.

In a small article on the ABC news site, Professor Peng Bi of the University of Adelaide said occupational health and safety laws needed a review to accommodate the changing climate and

“I reckon some regulations should be set up to get employers to pay [fresh] attention to the occupational health and safety of their employees…”

Contrary to Professor Peng Bi’s request, Australian worksites have done much to accommodate the changing climate conditions and to maintain productivity, primarily, in relation to excessive heat exposure by working within the existing occupational health and safety (OHS) legislation.  This is not to say more should not be done.

The risks associated with working in heat are well established and recognised by Safe Work Australia and State safety regulators but the advice often focusses on personal changes such as ensuring there is adequate hydration or that jobs should be rotated or that long-sleeved shorts are worn.  The amplification of these conditions due to climate change is foreseeable so what should employers, companies and OHS regulators do?

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Overburden exposes the social burden of workplace death and illness

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On 26 February 2016, a recent documentary about a portion of the American coal-mining industry, Overburden, was shown with a panel discussion, as part of the Transitions Film Festival in Melbourne. The film is commonly promoted as an environmental film but it also touches on

  • Corporate and executive arrogance;
  • A complete disregard to worker safety;
  • Excessive influence of industry lobbyists in the political process;
  • The socio-economic impacts of allowing an industrial monopoly;
  • Personal perspectives of risk.

The trailer hints at some of these issues. (A traditional mainstream review of the film is available HERE)

The panel drew direct lines between the Appalachian issues raised in the film with the socio-economic issues in Victoria’s LaTrobe Valley that resulted from the Hazelwood Mine Fire. Continue reading “Overburden exposes the social burden of workplace death and illness”