Grenfell Tower and other incidents illustrate major deficiencies in OHS perceptions

A recent investigative report into workplace safety at Los Alamos laboratory in the United States included this statement:

“The Center’s probe revealed worker safety risks, previously unpublicized accidents, and dangerously lax management practices at other nuclear weapons-related facilities. The investigation further found that penalties for these practices were relatively light, and that many of the firms that run these facilities were awarded tens of millions of dollars in profits in the same years that major safety lapses occurred. Some were awarded new contracts despite repeated, avoidable accidents, including some that exposed workers to radiation.”

The whole article deserves reading but this paragraph in particular illustrates that deficiencies in procurement apply to large organisations in high risk sectors just as much as it can in the small to medium-sized business sector.  A major reason is that detailed and diligent procurement has been seen as red tape and it seems to have taken disasters like Grenfell Tower to illustrate the moral deficiencies and short-term economic fantasies of

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Road safety needs a systems approach to investigations

A company vehicle is a workplace.  This is not a radical statement, or shouldn’t be.  A worker driving the company vehicle is at work, transporting themselves or some goods somewhere as part of the work process. Yet most traffic accidents in Australia are not assessed to determine whether they are work-related and action is rarely taken by the occupational health and safety (OHS) regulators who seem comfortable with their secondary information gathering role in traffic accidents.

With the failure of the trade union movement’s efforts to maintain the existence of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, others are stepping up pressure on Australia’s government to address some traffic accidents as work-related. And there is some important local independent research that seems to support this push.

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Safety in licencing is not limited to fishing

On 26 May 2017, NT WorkSafe announced that Austral Fisheries Pty Ltd was charged over health and safety breaches that resulted in the electrocution of Ryan Donoghue.  Enforcement of occupational health and safety breaches should be welcomed but Donoghue died in 2013!  Why so long?

NT WorkSafe regret the delay:

“The location of the vessel meant the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland and NT WorkSafe potentially had jurisdiction to investigate.”

“The preliminary findings from our investigation were handed to Workplace Health and Safety Queensland after we received legal advice that they had jurisdiction,” Mr Gelding [Executive Director of NT WorkSafe] said.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland completed their investigation on 3 March 2015 and decided not to prosecute. The Northern Territory Coroner held an inquest into the accident in April 2016 and referred the matter to NT WorkSafe for consideration.

Why so long? Jurisdictional arguments and enforcement variation.  But didn’t Australia establish a National Compliance and Enforcement Policy in 2011?   Yep,

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Both parties claim a win in a stoush that changed a couple of words

The court case between the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) and WorkSafe Victoria has been resolved and, according to both parties, they both won.  According to WorkSafe Victoria:

“The Supreme Court proceeding issued by Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and other quad bike manufacturers against WorkSafe Victoria was dismissed just prior to a trial that was listed to commence yesterday.

The manufacturers had wanted the Supreme Court to rule that WorkSafe’s public announcements about quad bike safety were unlawful. The challenge has been dismissed and will not proceed to trial.”

According to FCAI’s media statement:

“In the Supreme Court proceedings, WorkSafe Victoria specifically declined to pursue a claim that the fitment of an OPD is an appropriate way of reducing the risks to operators of an ATV overturning. It has produced no data or other evidence to support its claim that OPDs will “save lives”.

The revisions now made by WorkSafe Victoria are welcomed by the ATV industry as an important clarification to correct previous reporting that, as a result of its March 2016 announcement, OPDs had become mandatory on Victorian farms. That was not the case, as WorkSafe Victoria has now acknowledged, as a result of the legal proceedings taken against it.”

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“Shooting the shit out of them”

On May 18 2017, Australia’s Senate Education and Employment Committee held a public hearing for its inquiry into Corporate Avoidance of the Fair Work Act in Melbourne Australia.  Executives of Carlton United Breweries (CUB) were the first to appear, ostensibly, to reiterate and answer questions about its submission.  The Chair of the Committee, Senator Gavin Marshall, had different expectations and stated he would be asking about a passionate, long and contentious dispute at CUB’s Abbotsford brewery in 2016.  Quotes from a CUB diary of events, mentioned by Senator Marshall, seemed to catch the CUB executives unaware.

Senator Marshall quoted from a CUB Manager’s diary asking what was meant by “Shooting the shit out of them”. The atmosphere in the hotel function room changed. Continue reading ““Shooting the shit out of them””

Trade unions offer alternative, more accurate(?) workplace death statistics

The Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC) indirectly acknowledged the ILO theme for World Day for Safety and Health at Work in its media release for International Workers Memorial Day 2017.  The ILO was calling for more, and better, data on workplace injuries and illnesses.  VTHC questioned the official workplace fatality numbers issued by the government.  It stated:

“A VTHC analysis shows that in 2016-17 over 200 Victorians died as a direct result of Workplace injury or illness, although the government’s official tally for the year is just 26.”

This disparity needs to be discussed across jurisdictions because occupational health and safety (OHS) data has always been incomplete, a fact acknowledged by many government inquiries in Australia for many years.  

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safetyculture clarifies its approach to SWMS

On May 1 2017 safetyculture released an e-book called “Confused about Workplace Safety?” intended to address questions commonly asked of them.  The topic of most interest is their advocacy of Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS), an activity discussed earlier by SafetyAtWorkBlog.

safetyculture states up front that SWMS are for “high risk construction work” as defined by occupational health and safety (OHS) legislation and lists the activities that make up high risk construction work. But then poses a confusing question:

“So why did my principal contractor request that I supply a SWMS for the plastering or turf laying job I just did?”

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Clichés may be true but what do they hide

It is common for people to play cliché bingo, where one notes down all of the cliché’s a person, usually a boss, is using and when all of the clichés have been used, BINGO!  You’re job may end at that point so a silent BINGO may be best.

This exercise can be fun, particularly at conferences, but clichés can be hazardous as they can reinforce poor understandings and compound the simplification of complicated ideas or ideas that should be complex and addressed. Occupational health and safety (OHS) has some major clichés that need to be called out and examined.

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Discussing risk assessments should lead to an analysis of the ethics of OHS

Recently a Young Safety Professional network in Queensland conducted a debate or discussion about the role of risk assessment in occupational health and safety (OHS).  Naomi Kemp posted an article about the event titled “To risk assess, or not to risk assess: that is the question“.  Risk assessments offer an entry point to broader discussions of liabilities, risk, red tape, complacency, communication and state of knowledge.  But of most relevance to OHS compliance is that risk assessments are part of the legal obligation to consult.

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