Government attention on the risks of silicosis, especially those related to engineered stone, continues to increase. Australia has established a National Dust Disease Taskforce to investigate the risks and to make recommendations to the government at the end of 2020. A national investigation is warranted but occupational health and safety (OHS) is regulated at State level so it could be many years until safety improves on this matter, if the States wait for the Taskforce’s final report.
Luckily, the debate on silicosis risks continue in various Parliaments and the Taskforce is seeking submissions.
It is widely acknowledged that work-related incidents are under-reported through worker or management choice. But there are institutional practices that mean that incidents in company vehicles are reported as traffic incidents even though the driver may be obliged to follow company safe driving procedures and the car has been purchased exclusively for work activities. But this situation is not just related to transport. Last week, Michaela Dunn, was murdered by a client while at work but her death will not be recorded as a work-related death.
The debate about quad bike safety has gone global with the United States telling the World Trade Organisation that the imposition of operator protection devices (OPDs) on general quad bikes (those not used for recreation or sport) may be a trade barrier. To some this would appear silly, and the argument has little to do with worker safety, but this action by the US impedes progress on safety.
Recently the Victorian Coroner made findings into the quad bike-related death of 69-year-old farmer Gustaav Walta in September 2017. The finding is not yet publicly available but the story of Walta’s death sounds very familiar.
One evening around 6pm Walta advised his friend that he was putting the sheep away. His friend did not receive the regular phone call the next morning and drove to the property finding a quad bike that had rolled over and Walta’s body in an adjacent paddock. It was determined that Walta had died from severe chest injuries caused by the quad bike incident, that he had been ejected from the bike, the bike rolled over him and he then had tried walking to a neighbour’s property before he collapsed and died.
The chronology in the Findings is not very clear on Walta received his chest injuries but what is clear is that, like so many before, the quad bike had not been fitted with an OPD and that Walta had not been wearing a helmet.
The West Australian Government has released its the report on its Ministerial Review of the State Industrial Relations System. There are a few interesting bits that relate to occupational health and safety (OHS) and bullying.
The Fair Work Commission has been able to accept applications to stop workplace bullying for a few years now. Western Australia’s State system will soon also allow this, if the Government accepts the recommendations, but workplace bullying is a little different from the OHS approach. The report says:
On April 6 2018 Australia’s Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert released the report into Quad Bike safety prepared by the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC). The report makes unsurprising safety recommendations, many of these have been coming for years. The surprise is the Minister’s decision to begin another round of consultation:
“The Government is inviting stakeholders to review and comment on the ACCC’s recommended safety standard.”
The previous paragraph in the Minister’s press statement acknowledged:
“Extensive consultation has been undertaken including with technical experts, farmers, the recreational and tourism sector, consumer groups, health and medical experts, industry and government bodies. The majority of stakeholders support a new mandatory safety standard. The ACCC’s report highlights how these safety measures including installing an operator protection device can significantly reduce the frequency and severity of injuries, particularly from rollover incidents”
An indication of the level of “extensive consultation” can be seen through the process the ACCC has been running since at least November 2017. The only possible reason for this extraordinary decision is the political desire to release the ACCC report prior to the Federal Election, only just announced as occurring on May 18, 2019.