Reviewing Today Tonight’s insulation exclusive

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As an example of “tabloid TV” the Today Tonight (TT) report broadcast on 17 February 2010 concerning children assisting workers to install insulation, was very good.  It probably benefited from my own appearances remaining brief.

The topicality of a story on the home insulation industry could not have been higher yesterday as a Senate inquiry into the Australian Government’s environment and job creation scheme held hearings in Melbourne.  TT led its show with the scandalous report.

The video of a young boy handling large bags of insulation on a roof is disturbing; the unprotected handling of the insulation material by the young boy is similar.  That the children were allowed to be on the roof by the homeowner and parents is a parental supervision issue and outside the scope of this blog.  That the workers allowed them to be present and did not tell the children to get down is more disturbing and a clear breach of the workers’ OHS obligations. Continue reading “Reviewing Today Tonight’s insulation exclusive”

Biomarkers for musculoskeletal disorders

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Slips, trips and falls are often the neglected “bastard son” of occupational health and safety but the can cripple and can, literally cost an arm or a leg.

The traditional approach to control these hazards have been to make  the working environment safer by mopping up spilled liquids, for instance, or be using a piece of equipment such as a stepladder, or in the long-term or in the beginning of a project, to design out hazards.

We also know that musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) make occur suddenly, and dramatically and painfully, but one’s body has accumulated weaknesses over time.  The UK’s Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has released a research report that indicates a new approach to MSDs or at least a start. Continue reading “Biomarkers for musculoskeletal disorders”

When employees are their worst enemy.

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A recent article in a rehabilitation newsletter reminded me of a client from several years ago.

Several employees in a small item packaging line were reporting wrist and forearm soreness toward the end of their shift.  They believed that the line speed was too fast for them to comfortably work their full shift.

In consultation with the workers and the operations manager we went through various possible control options – line speed, automation, seating, posture, warm-up exercise, footwear, length of shift…..

A couple of days later, I was at the workplace at the end of the shift.  The employees said they were sore but they did not go home.  They stayed on for several hours of overtime.  When I asked them about this they said they always do the overtime.

So the assessment of working environment had incomplete data.

My advice was that if the employees were putting themselves at harm of the potential for harm, undertaking overtime while not fit-for-work contravenes their own OHS obligations.  If the employer offered these employees overtime knowing the employees were in pain, the employer is breaching the OHS obligation.

That is the straight OHS position.  But life is more complex than OHS.  The right OHS decision deprives the employees of additional income.  The right OHS decision could encourage employees to not report their pain or discomfort, for if they do, the offer of overtime would be withdrawn.  Non-reporting of injuries is a common short-term decision that many employees make.

It is in this context that consultation is required between employees, production manager, supervisor, human resources officer, and the health & safety rep, if one is on site.  This consultative group can then make a decision that everyone understands the justification for, even if some participants do not like it.

A question to ponder from the scenario above – if one of the workers developed pain during the normal work shift, undertook overtime without the employer being informed of the pain and put in a worker’s compensation claim for the pain, would the employer feel justified in contesting the claim?

Kevin Jones

OHS and Corporate Responsibility in Asia

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In 2000, Melody Kemp was interviewed for Safety At Work magazine about her experience monitoring Western corporations’ workplace safety in Asia. Below is an extract of that interview.

In 2000, Melody Kemp was interviewed for Safety At Work magazine about her experience monitoring Western corporations’ workplace safety in Asia.  Below is an extract of that interview.

The full interview is available by clicking the HERE.pages-from-2i5-melody-kemp-interview

Recently you were part of an international OHS inspection team in Indonesia. Can you tell us about that?

I guess the reason I became part of the team was that I was known to the social research group that we were working with.  First, Reebok, who we were working for, put the job out for tender, which was actually quite unusual.  Normally the other shoe companies tend to elect an international consulting accounting firm like Price Waterhouse or Ernst Young.  

The woman who took over the human rights job used to work for the Asian Foundation and she had a totally different set of beliefs.  She had a background in social activism and human rights, so she was interested in a different approach.  Being as independent as they could be they decided to take this opportunity. They subcontracted to a prominent social research group who have worked for World Bank and have a lot of status.

Also, they were all Indonesians while I was the only foreigner on the team but I also speak Indonesian.  A major factor was that we were all familiar with the language and culture.  They needed an OHS person, they preferred to work with a woman, and I was the only woman they could find in Indonesia with that mix of skills.