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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How will “independent workplace facilitators” improve OHS?

Every government releases a great deal of information, particularly around budget time and occupational health and safety (OHS) funding often gets missed in the overviews and media discussion.  The Victorian Government’s budget papers (Budget Paper No. 3 – Service Delivery) for 2017 included A$3 million to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) for

“Addressing occupational violence against health workers and workplace bullying” (page 78)

There is no doubt that such funding will help improve OHS but it also seems odd, given some of the recent incidents and riots,  the corrections and prison services received no specific OHS funding. The introduction of “a trial of independent workplace facilitators” is also intriguing.

Continue reading “How will “independent workplace facilitators” improve OHS?”

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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More activity needed on safe driving at work

In Australia a driver can achieve a “full”, unrestricted licence for driving a car from one’s early 20s following a test conducted by a State regulatory authority.  This driver’s licence is renewed each ten years but without any retesting or assessment of competency, even though the road rules, environment, traffic volumes, car design and personal technology would have changed in that time.

Should an employer allow an employee to drive a company or work-related vehicle without determining a driver’s suitability and level of driving competence?

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

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”

For What Steve Bell Tells – OHS issues for 2017

Steve Bell is a partner with Hebert Smith Freehills (HSF) in Melbourne, Australia.  As many law firms do, HSF conducts several events each year to inform clients and others of occupational health and safety (OHS) and labour relations issues.  In March 2017 Bell, who is the regular host at these events, spoke at a breakfast seminar held jointly with the Safety Institute of Australia, and identified several safety issues as becoming prominent in 2017:

  • Increased penalties
  • The risk of complacency
  • Increased interplay between OHS and industrial relations
  • Focus on public safety elements of OHS
  • the review of regulations.

Below are some thoughts on the issues raised by Steve Bell.

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Practicable or practical – let’s call the whole thing off

Jargon can help create a subculture.  This can be positive for those on the inside but relies on excluding others.  Occupational health and safety (OHS) is no different and one of the best illustrations of OHS jargon is “practicable”.  This was emphasised recently in a document released by WorkSafe WA where “practicable” had lost out to “practical”.

The guidance also omitted the duties of builders for the health and safety of those affected by their work.

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When Work Kills – new research on workplace suicides

There are many advocates of the importance of a mental health and wellbeing in workplaces.  But few of them address the worst-case scenario for workplace mental health of work-related suicides.  In some cases, the mental health advocates are overly cautious about even speaking the reality, which does not help reduce mental health stigma.

In 2016 Professor Stewart Clegg, of UTS Business School said that

“That work can kill the will to live is a fundamental ethical problem that we must attend to…”

New research from the UK provides a useful summary of the work-related and workplace suicides in Europe with important lessons of where precarious employment and the “gig economy” could lead.

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Safe Driving affected by leadership

New Australian research into work-related driving shows how organisations mishandle the risks.  The first paragraph of the research clearly shows the significance of the hazard:

“Road traffic injury is the leading cause of work-related death in Australia. It has been estimated that one-third of all work-related deaths occur while driving for work purposes.  This emerging public health issue is not unique to Australia, with work-related traffic deaths estimated to account for 22% of work fatalities in the United States and 16% in New Zealand.  Despite this, many organisations employing individuals to drive a vehicle as part of their work are unaware of the factors that may act to reduce work-related traffic injury and deaths.”

This research illustrates the need to integrate the functions of Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) professionals, Risk Managers and Fleet Managers within organisations and across government agencies to address a significant public health issues in a more effective manner.

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Legal Professional Privilege – the snake in safety

Part of good corporate governance is transparency.  A core element of occupational health and safety (OHS) is effective consultation.  These two business practices seem compatible in that they address what is good for business and what is good for the workers.  But there is a snake in this garden of safety – Legal Professional Privilege (LPP).

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