Australia risks OHS ridicule in the media

The Sunday Herald-Sun ran an article that would not have been out-of-place in the English tabloid newspapers.  The article, “Safety regulations taking the fun out of schools”, indicates many of the confused lines of responsibility that English articles include.

In Victoria, the safety requirements of government schools are determined by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD).  The OHS regulator, WorkSafe, has some influence but far less that DEECD. (The only really school-related OHS document from WorkSafe Victoria was released in 2008)

The Sunday Herald-Sun article states, in some pictures not in the online version, that the Victorian Principals Association has been told of OHS regulations that require teachers to  “put on mask, surgical gloves to apply a band-aid”.  Continue reading “Australia risks OHS ridicule in the media”

Workplaces are under-prepared for first aid incidents

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has reported that

“Less than 10% of people are aware they need to cool burn wounds for 20 minutes in cool water as a first aid measure.”

Research* published in the AMA’s Medical Journal of Australia, in October 2011, found that

“Unprompted, 82% of (7320) respondents said they knew to cool the burn with cool or cold water but 41.5% said they didn’t know for how long cold running water should be applied.”

SafetyAtWorkBlog has followed the issue of first aid treatment for burns and the evidence for burn creams.

The application of the recommended treatment for burns continues to be a contentious issue in practice in Australian workplaces.  Part of the reason could be that first aid treatment in many workplaces is seen as little more than a “bandaid treatment” because this is the first aid treatment most seen and most received.  But this perception does not site well with the evidence for burn treatments.

The first aid (band aid) treatments in most workplace is quick and usually does not interrupt work.  To properly treat a burn, a worker must stop work for twenty minutes.  Most workplaces where burns are likely to occur, for instance, construction sites, manufacturing, food preparation, are unlikely to welcome a stoppage of one worker for twenty minutes.  Can one imagine a burger flipper at a fast food restaurant standing with a hand under a running tap for twenty minutes?  It would be unlikely that this absence could be covered. Continue reading “Workplaces are under-prepared for first aid incidents”

Shower company changes ad image from wet woman to wet man

In early April 2011 SafetyAtWorkBlog questioned the appropriateness of an advertising image of a semi-clad woman in an emergency shower.  The emergency shower company, Spill Station Australia, has changed the major image of its shower ads in the most recent brochure being distributed with some Australian OHS magazines.

Kevin Jones

The Commercial Kitchens Campaign needs further examination

Why is a government workers’ compensation agency promoting first aid when a different agency has had that role for over twenty years?  And why do the program’s first aid kits contain commercial products that are no more effective in the first aid treatment of burns than water from the tap?

On May 12 2011, WorkCover SA launched, in conjunction with the Julian Burton Burns Trust, the Commercial Kitchens Campaign.  Burns are a major feature of this campaign with 500 Commercial Kitchens Burns Packs being distributed free to restaurants and cafes in South Australia.

SafetyAtWorkBlog has been told that these kits contain a Burns First Aid Kit developed by A/Prof John Greenwood, the Julian Burton Burns Trust and St John Ambulance Australia which includes the following items:

  • burnaid gel
  • burnaid dressing,
  • a plastic sheet,
  • sterile towel,
  • tape, and
  • step by step directions written by A/Prof John Greenwood.

The odd thing about this initiative is that medical research has shown that burnaid gels are less effective than cool running water for the first aid treatment of burns.  In the journal Wound Practice and Research (Vol 18 Number 1 – Feb 2010) Australian researchers Leila Cuttle and Roy M Kimble wrote in “First Aid treatment of burn injuries” that

“The widespread use of such dressings [Burnaid is specifically referenced] (which have now even penetrated the first aid market) is alarming considering the lack of studies which support their use.” Continue reading “The Commercial Kitchens Campaign needs further examination”

The evidence on first aid treatment of burns

The treatment of burns in a workplace setting has always been a contentious matter between first aid trainers and equipment suppliers.  First aid says that initial treatment of burns should be the application of cold running water but equipment suppliers often include burn treatment creams.  What’s the evidence for burn creams?

In December 2010, the Cochrane Library produced a collection of reviews concerning the treatment of burns.  Some of the information in the collection  should be of great use and interest to workplace first aiders.

One report states:

“In the early management of minor burn injury,do silver based products improve burn infection control and healing?

There is not enough evidence to decide whether silver based products improve healing, infection control, pain or other outcomes in people with minor burns.” Continue reading “The evidence on first aid treatment of burns”

Telling is better than being exposed

Many OHS laws place obligations on employers to notify regulators (   )  of any particularly serious (often defined) incidents.  In many jurisdictions regulators are sometimes informed of work-related hospital admissions, for instance, even if employers do not notify.  But there is substantial benefit in notifying the regulators early.

Anecdotal evidence shows that by facing up to the reality that an incident has occurred is less costly in the long term as this shows that one is aware of one’s OHS obligations and willing to apply them.

The wisdom of reporting incidents in a timely manner is perhaps illustrated by a 17 December 2010 article in The Age newspaper.  It is rumoured that incidents involving apprentice tiler Kane Ammerlaan may not have been reported to the OHS regulator in Victoria, WorkSafe.

Prompt reporting may not have been able to improve Ammerlaan’s situation relating to the fall but investigations into this possibly life-changing incident could have begun much earlier, and when evidence was easier to collate.

Ammerlaan also alleges that:

‘Through my six weeks I was constantly abused. There was a lot of verbal abuse; they’d throw stuff at me; I was shot with a nail gun on a few occasions.”

This may raise, yet again, the safety issue of the treatment of young workers and apprentices; an issue on which the community seems to require regular reminding.

Kevin Jones

The cost of not having first aid

On 30 August 2010, WorkSafe Victoria released a media statement about a case in a Magistrates’ Court concerning the death of a worker.  Nothing new in that but in this case first aid gains a prominence that is rarely seen because in this case adequate first aid was not provided.  The uniqueness of the case justifies reproducing the media release in full:

“A Melbourne magistrate has described the failure of a Cheltenham company to seek first aid for a worker who hit his head and later died as ‘outrageous’.

Metal products manufacturer Pressfast Industries Pty Ltd was convicted and fined last week after a 2008 incident where a worker fell over and hit his head on concrete after being struck by a forklift.

The 60 year-old man was later found unconscious at work and died in hospital two days later.

“There was no qualified first aider on site, and the company failed to call an ambulance or seek first aid for the worker,” WorkSafe Victoria’s Strategic Programs Director Trevor Martin said. “The only staff member with first aid training was certified in 1984, and wasn’t alerted until it was too late,” he said.

In handing down his sentence, Magistrate Andrew Capell referred to the company’s decision not to seek help from the first aider, despite the expired certificate, as ‘outrageous’. Continue reading “The cost of not having first aid”