Moral conflicts in store for Australian politicians and bureaucrats

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iStock_000016528694XSmall2014 is going to present tough challenges to Australia’s politicians and corporate leaders.  The Royal Commission into the Home Insulation Program, in particular, is going to illustrate and perhaps generate ideological conflict.

The Home Insulation Program (HIP) was established quickly to address a looming economic crisis.  Politicians and business leaders wanted Australia to avoid the global recession and they needed creative solutions.  Various importance governance and safety elements appear to have been sacrificed to achieve the economic ends.  In 2014, the politicians of the time and bureaucrats will be grilled over why they made these decisions.  Various inquiries have already identified that these decisions contributed to the deaths of four young workers.  In 2014, these decision- and policy-makers will be held to account for the fatal consequences of their economic decisions.

There has long been a conflict between the pursuit of profit and the pursuit of safe working conditions.  The Royal Commission, and the surrounding debate, is likely to place this conflict squarely in the highest levels of Australia’s government and public service.  Below are some of the issues that the Australian government and business sector are likely to face in 2014. Continue reading “Moral conflicts in store for Australian politicians and bureaucrats”

Australian research on OHS harmonisation’s progress, success and errors

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The harmonisation of Australia’s occupational health and safety (OHS) laws has stagnated since the West Australian government’s tepid response to the strategy and Victoria’s belligerent and ill-founded rejection.  But some continue to examine the harmonisation process.  Eric Windholz is one of those researchers.

Windholz is a former executive of Victoria’s WorkSafe and is now  with the Monash Centre or Regulatory Studies and is writing his thesis on OHS harmonisation (to be available soon through the Monash Library).  Windholz acknowledges the political context of harmonisation, a context he describes as “contentious”.

The political maneuvering of various stakeholders in the harmonisation process deserves additional study.  The harmonisation, or even national uniformity, of safety has occurred over a similar period in Australia with other industry sectors, most noticeably in rail.  It is a strategy that was started by the conservative government of John Howard, embraced by the Australian Labor Party through its various prime ministerial incarnations and is now stagnant or even ignored. Continue reading “Australian research on OHS harmonisation’s progress, success and errors”

New quadbike safety research in a time of political change

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In the next edition of the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA), Dr Tony Lower, Director of Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety and Monash University researchers ( Angela J Clapperton and Emily L Herde) will be providing more evidence about the death and injury rate associated with the use of All-Terrain Vehicles (ATV) and quadbikes. A unique feature of this study is that “it is the first Australian study quantifying injuries from three different data sources.”

This research is timely as only last week a Tasmanian court case was occurring over a quad bike incident on a dairy farm. According to a newspaper report on the case:

“Defence counsel Glynn Williams told magistrate Michael Brett that quad bikes were inherently unsafe and unstable…. [and]

“There is ongoing carnage on farms and while the government can legislate to make stronger and stronger dog laws there is no willingness to legislate for stronger quad bike laws”

According to a media statement on the MJA paper due for release on 16 September 2013, Lower says:

“As the data indicates not only are there increasing numbers of quad cases, they are also more serious than other similar injuries. Further, because of their threat to life, they will frequently require higher levels of medical treatment and longer recovery periods for the victims.”

“The impact of deaths and serious injuries from quad bikes is significant and I am sure everyone would like to see a decrease in these incidents.”

Continue reading “New quadbike safety research in a time of political change”

Supreme Court decision limits public knowledge of OHS offences

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Woman CelebratingIn May 2013 Fiona Austin (@upfrontfi) a lawyer with the Australian law firm, Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF), tweeted:

“Great win in the Supreme Court! No more naming and shaming for health and safety offenders in Queensland”

The Supreme Court decision is an appalling situation over which OHS professionals and regulators should be outraged.

Austin and other HSF lawyers authored a longer article on the case and totally miss the point of why OHS offenders should be named.  Shaming of offenders is a different matter.

The article explains how a decision under the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 (Qld) may stop the OHS regulator in Queensland, Work Health and Safety Queensland, from listing the names of offenders on its website. Continue reading “Supreme Court decision limits public knowledge of OHS offences”

Fall prevention in Australia needs a major overhaul

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Below is a guest post from long time SafetyAtWorkBlog reader, Marian Macdonald.

“If you need to use that, you’ll almost certainly die,” says fall prevention expert Carl Sachs, pointing to a guardrail on the rooftop of a multi-storey Melbourne office block.

Fixed to flimsy aluminium flashing, the guardrail flies in the face of several mandatory and voluntary standards but Sachs says non-compliances are more the norm than the exception on Australia’s rooftops. The problem, he says, is that height safety equipment installers need no training or qualifications and nobody is checking that their work really is capable of saving lives.

“Australians wouldn’t accept unqualified electricians wiring our houses but, as it stands, all you need is a ute, a credit card and a cordless drill to install the safety gear that stops us falling off skyscrapers,” he says.

It’s a concern echoed by, plumbers, building surveyors, facility managers and builders.

Paul Naylor of the Master Plumbers Association of NSW, says plumbers risk deadly falls daily.

“Whilst due diligence principles can be applied and all care taken to ensure that height safety systems are adequate, without some form of regulation or certification, workers are placed at risk of serious injury everyday due to a lack of knowledge and regulation specific to fall prevention,” Mr Naylor says.

Continue reading “Fall prevention in Australia needs a major overhaul”