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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WorkSafeNZ’s investigation into cut throats identifies important safety lessons

Following a recent article about Enforceable Undertakings, several readers have asked for more information about the occupational health and safety (OHS) breaches that cause WorkSafe New Zealand to commence prosecution actions.

The investigation report provides some useful discussion on safety management failures and Board of Trustee obligations.

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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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Quad bike safety gets messy – disagreements, Supreme Court writs and stars

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Over the last couple of weeks in Australia, the arguments over the safety of quad bikes (sometimes called All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs)) has become messy. The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) is in favour of Operator Protection Devices (OPDs) but the Victorian Farmers’ Federation (VFF) is not. Doctors and farmers are calling for a five-start safety rating for quad bikes. One researcher says such a scheme is ready to go. The manufacturers’ industry representative, Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) says no it’s not but here’s a new helmet to wear.

Around all of this is remarkable silence about legal action launched against the Victorian occupational health and safety (OHS) regulator, WorkSafe, by Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki and BRP over WorkSafe’s interpretation of a legal safety duty.

All the while farmers in some States are continuing to access generous safety rebate schemes. Continue reading “Quad bike safety gets messy – disagreements, Supreme Court writs and stars”

Does accessing government assistance need to be so hard?

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Nothing is ever easy in farming.  Several Australian States have introduced a rebate scheme to help farmers improve the safety of the quad bikes so the vehicles, also inaccurately called All Terrain Vehicles (ATV), should be made safer. The argument over safety has persisted for many years and has resulted, most recently, in rebates for safety improvements provided by the government.  However, two States – Victoria and New South Wales – have different processes to accessing these rebates and the NSW process seems to deter farmers from applying for the rebates.

caution ATV signThe Victorian Government’s rebate scheme is administered through WorkSafe who provides a Frequently Asked Questions which is simple and clear.  The dates of activity are listed and, primarily, proof of purchase is the main document for eligibility. Victorian farmers can obtain a rebate for:

“$1200 for the purchase of an alternate vehicle such as a side-by-side vehicle (SSV) or a small utility vehicle (SUV). The alternate vehicle must be designed for use in agriculture and at point of sale have rollover protection and a fitted seatbelt. Sport vehicles and small commercial vehicles, such as utes, are excluded.

Up to $600 for the purchase of up to two operator protection devices (OPD). The OPD must have been designed and manufactured in accordance with approved engineering standards and independently tested to be eligible for the rebate. There are currently two OPD devices that meet this criteria and are eligible for the rebate. They are the Quadbar™ and the ATV Lifeguard.”

The NSW process is funded by SafeWork NSW with a complex set of terms and conditions.  The purchase options seem narrower but the major difference in the two rebates schemes is New South Wales’ insistence that farmers must attend an “educative interaction”.  According to a SafeWork NSW FAQ farmers are required to:

  • “get along to a Farm Safety Day run by SafeWork NSW or one of its program partners
  • visit the SafeWork NSW stand at an Agricultural Field Days
  • request a free on-farm Workplace Advisory Visit and we will come to you
  • attend one of the 100 training events being offered by Tocal College.”

SafetyAtWorkBlog has been told that farmers find this to be condescending and are suspicious of SafeWork NSW’s intentions, particularly in relation to the “free on-farm Workplace Advisory Visit”. Such visits are likely to be SafeWork NSW’s preferred option as there are only a limited number of Field Days available every year. WorkSafe Victoria does not insist on educative interactions as part of the rebate scheme which increases NSW framers’ suspicions.

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) recently released a new video to support its claims that Operator Protection Devices (OPD) or Crush Protection Devices (CPD) “are not the answer“.  The FCAI has been out of step with the issue of quad bike safety for many years and it is difficult to sympathise with its position when governments are “endorsing” OPDs through rebate schemes.

The FCAI’s position seems to be shortsighted as the rebates are encouraging farmers to apply a Gordian Knot solution to the bickering over quad bike safety.   Both the NSW and Victorian rebate schemes encourage farmers to purchase side-by-side vehicles (SSV) which, due to the framework over the driver, have no need for the OPDs on offer.  SSVs are more expensive than quadbikes but can be seen as endorsed safer options by the regulators of safety in each of the States.

Having dug in to a contrary position of additional safety measures on quad bikes, the FCAI is getting more out of step with the regulators’ positions and the safe desires of farmers and farming families.  But perhaps criticising the FCAI is unfair, after all, it is a body representing the interests of automotive manufacturers.  Generations have grown up equating motor vehicle manufacturing with safety, ever since “Unsafe at Any Speed” was published in the 1960s, but the FCAI seems different.  It has its own definition of workplace safety that is not in step with government or safety regulators.

Farmers, like all business operators, need to decide for themselves who they trust more for their own safety – regulators or salespeople.

Kevin Jones