What is Farm Safety Week really saying about safety?

This week is Farm Safety Week in Australia.  This means that a lot of organisations will be issuing media releases about how to either, improve safety performance (ie. reduce harm) or raise awareness of risks and safety.  What is likely to be missing from the information is practical information.  This is partly because of the unique nature of farmers – isolated, small businesses, politically conservative and working from home.

Safe Work Australia

On the first day of the week Safe Work Australia (SWA) released an

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OHS and murder

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.

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Canberra Hospital demolition deserves a unified safety story

It is the twentieth anniversary of the explosive demolition of the Canberra Hospital.  The demolition was meant to be an implosion but instead debris scatter well outside the designated safety zone resulting in the death of one person and injuries to nine.  Such events are significant at the time but fade from memory until anniversaries are noted, however, there are important occupational health and safety (OHS) lessons from such incidents which do not have the drama of a Piper Alpha or a Challenger but are nevertheless as instructive.

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WorkSafe responds on Strategy 2030

Last week SafetyAtWorkBlog wrote about the release of a WorkSafe Victoria Strategy 2030 discussion paper. WorkSafe has responded to a series of questions that were clear and straightforward.  The response is largely unhelpful.

“The discussion paper seeks feedback on WorkSafe’s next long term strategy which will support an even greater focus on injury prevention, the provision of tailored services and empathetic support to every injured worker and the transformation of WorkSafe into a technologically agile organisation.

The discussion paper has been promoted with a series of community seminars across the state, shared on social media, and sent to our employees and key stakeholders to promote and encourage feedback among their networks.

Workplace safety affects every Victorian which is why we are seeking the views of employers, workers and the broader community.

A summary of the feedback will be made available on the WorkSafe website before the end of the year.”

The questions asked by SafetyAtWorkBlog are listed below.

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Quinlan’s time capsule includes useful OHS perspectives

Professor Michael Quinlan has been writing about occupational health and safety (OHS) and industrial relations for several decades. His writing has matured over that time as indicated by his most recent book, Ten Pathways to Death and Disaster.  In 1980, one of his articles looked at OHS through the prisms of Capitalism and Marxism.  It is remarkable how much an article that was written early in Quinlan’s career and at a time when OHS was considered another country remains relevant today.  This perspective contrasts strongly with the current dominant thinking on OHS and as a result sounds fresh and may offer some solutions.

In Quinlan’s 1980 article, “The Profits of Death: Workers’ Health and Capitalism”*, he writes that

“contrary to popular belief there is no objective irrefutable definition of illness”.

This could equally be applied to safety.  But searching for THE definition of things can lead to everlasting colloquia of academic experts without helping those who need to work within and apply safety concepts.

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