To OPD or not to OPD? That is NOT the question

The current debate and lobbying campaigns over quad bikes in Australia have become less about safety than about product design integrity. The opposition to operator protection devices (OPDs) has been so loud that it has dominated the quad bike safety discussion. So, last week I decided to visit a local quad bike dealer to talk to the sellers not about OPDs but about Safety. I found that some vehicles have safety integrated into their design and operation.

I have learnt that the best conversations happen during the weekdays when shop assistants and managers have the time to devote to someone who may be a potential buyer but is, at least, someone genuinely interested in the product, in this case quad bikes and side-by-side (SXS) work vehicles.

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Release of authoritative quad bike safety report is still not enough for the Federal Minister

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.

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Boland’s WHS Report recommends a practical update of laws and practices

The Australian Government has released the final report of the Independent Review of its Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws, conducted by Marie Boland. Importantly, the Government has not issued its response yet and, given that there is a Federal Election in a couple of months’ time, is unlikely to. Why have another issue complicate the campaign particularly when that response may have to address Industrial Manslaughter laws which would focus on the accountability of business leaders? This Government has already been bruised on a similar issue through a Banking and Finance Royal Commission.

Regardless of this Government’s future treatment of the Boland Report, the report does progress occupational health and safety (OHS) and the operation of the WHS laws, reinforcing some aspects and challenging other. It is obligatory reading for those interested in OHS in Australia.

(SafetyAtWorkBlog is preparing an exclusive interview with Marie Boland for next week)

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Chatham House rule misrepresentation

I am one of the few freelance writers in Australia who focuses on occupational health and safety (OHS). As a result, my presence is often uncomfortable to those who organise conferences and seminars, even though I operate under the Journalist Code of Ethics. People have had to accept that there is now a media interest in OHS-related events where previously there was very little.  This has caused a couple of problems and challenges.

Chatham House Rule

Recently, one seminar organiser suggested I not attend an event because the “Chatham House Rule” was to be applied.  They said that as I would not be permitted to report on anything said in the seminar, it may not be worth me attending.  This is a corruption of the Chatham House Rule which is best described by Chatham House itself as:

“When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.”

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New OHS conference with prominent speakers

One of the hottest occupational health and safety (OHS) issues at the moment is Industrial Manslaughter but this is just one aspect of the enforcement of OHS and prosecution for breaches. In June 2019 a two-day conference on OHS/WHS Prosecution and Enforcement is being held in Melbourne, Australia with a list of respected speakers who are prominent in Australian labour law circles.

The conference is more expensive than some other OHS conferences but the list of speakers is impressive and the theme could not be more topical. (A brochure is available for download) Until March 15 2019, Criterion Conferences is applying an Early Bird discount of $500 for each delegate. SafetyAtWorkBlog has negotiated a further discount applicable to Subscribers only.

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