The Toowong cancer cluster and risk communication

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The latest edition of the Medical Journal of Australia (eMJA) has published an investigation into the possible cancer cluster at the Toowong television studios of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) in late 2006.

Not surprisingly, given previous reports, the investigation has found that

“No statistically significant excess risk of breast cancer in ABC female employees was found across the Australian states and territories as a whole compared with their respective population incidences.  A statistically significant increased risk of breast cancer was found among ABC female employees in Queensland, consistent with the findings in an earlier report.”

The Toowong incident created considerable concern amongst staff, to such an extent that the corporation decided to close the entire facility and relocate all the broadcasting processes.  Unless this was already a corporate strategy the decision was brave, particularly when the initial investigations showed that the concern was not justified for Toowong specifically.

The ABC has an excellent timeline of media statements about the incident online.

Several issues from the latest report are worth noting.   Continue reading “The Toowong cancer cluster and risk communication”

Prisons are another world when implementing workplace safety

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The new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) into prisoner health and welfare makes no mention of workplace safety, even though most prisons in Australia have formal work programs for commercial gain.

The report “The health of Australia’s prisoners 2009” details the health and welfare status of Australian prisoners with some very confronting statistics that should be of more general concern to the community.  The media release summarises some of the report’s findings:

“The report highlights a number of significant health issues.  It shows that rates of chronic conditions, such as asthma, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and communicable diseases such as hepatitis B and hepatitis C, are significantly higher among prisoners than among the general population.

‘Of particular concern is the number of people who enter prison with mental health issues and high levels of psychological distress,’ said Ingrid Johnston of the AIHW’s Social and Indigenous Group. Continue reading “Prisons are another world when implementing workplace safety”

Inaccurate claims made of BP spill inquiry membership

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On 1 June 2010, the Safety Institute of Australia (SIA) informed its 3,000 members that Professor Andrew Hopkins has been

“nominated for a spot on the US commission’s inquiry into the disaster’s causes”.

Andrew Hopkins has advised SafetyAtWorkBlog that the nomination is not true and that the article is inaccurate.  His name was included in ill-informed speculation on membership of the United States’ commission of inquiry into the Gulf of Mexico oil spill but was never formally nominated. Continue reading “Inaccurate claims made of BP spill inquiry membership”

Even more caffeine research

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There is a lot of research going on at the moment into coffee and caffeine.  There seems to be no particular reason but perhaps the increasing sales of “energy drinks” may be relevant.

The latest caffeine-related research is reported in the online edition of Neuropsychopharmacology and is entitled –

“Association of the Anxiogenic and Alerting Effects of Caffeine with ADORA2A and ADORA1 Polymorphisms and Habitual Level of Caffeine Consumption”

(This paper is on my bedside table next to an Inspector Rebus book and the new book from Chris Morphew – not)

This quite complex article is mentioned here as some newspapers and websites are likely publish some of the content of a media release on 3 June 2010 in the context of “another coffee story”.  Research in this area can spark discussion in some media about the dangers and benefits of coffee, in a similar way to how people respond to reports of eating too many tomatoes that may turn you puce, for instance.  Below are parts of the media release that is easiest to understand and are likely for the media to cover:

“The sensation of alertness that comes from a cup of coffee may be an illusion. Continue reading “Even more caffeine research”

Planning for an ageing workforce – statistical clues

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There has been a lot of media attention on the potential impact of an ageing population on all aspects of our society, workplaces included.  In terms of OHS, there may be an increased risk of injury as people are encouraged to work longer and past the compulsory retirement age of around 60 to 65.  But it is worth looking beyond the newspaper reports to get a better understanding 0f the level of risk presented by current population trends.

A report by Professor Diane Gibson for the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia is a terrific way to begin to comprehend the reality of the risk.  The report, Beyond life expectancy,  was released in May 2010 and provides an interpretation of the 2006 Australian Census data.  From a cursory scan of the contents there are important facts that challenge us, particularly if we manage, in any way, people in the workplace. Continue reading “Planning for an ageing workforce – statistical clues”