The Victorian commemoration of International Workers Memorial Day has held on28 April 2015 and was a major improvement on previous memorials. The politics was muted by the speakers. There was no tray truck of angry unionists yelling through tannoys and heading off half way through the event to a protest rally that they see as more important than remembering the dead. There was a good level of dignity and solemnity …… finally.
Recently SafetyAtWorkBlog pointed out several instances of the media showing unsafe work practices in images to support, often, unrelated articles. These types of photos are starting to gain the attention of OHS regulators in Australia.
On 13 July 2011, the Adelaide Advertiser published the picture in support of a sports article about a soccer and cricket player.
One of the the most hazardous pieces of equipment in modern workplaces is the forklift. Sadly it is also one of the most useful. A recent prosecution in Western Australia provides an example of many of the serious risks in using forklifts:
untrained or undertrained drivers
unsafe decisions by employers
the safety role of seatbelts
labour hire management and staff supervision
driving with forks elevated
Other related issues are the employment of
transient labour, and
According to a WorkSafe WA media release, the basic facts of the incident are
“Flexi Staff supplied two casual labourers to the Beds Plus warehouse in Kewdale in February, 2008. The two men were British citizens on a working holiday in Australia. [links added]
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.
We all do it, we use language to both inform and at times mislead. However, when the latter happens in the field of OHS it can be a very damaging to standards. I’d like to draw attention to one such (class of) circumstance but I’m not sure that the very language I need to use as demonstration will be acceptable within this communication domain.
Some years back I tried to provide a means for linguistic interaction between some academic language and that of workers. I hoped that parcels of theory and practice could interact to highlight strengths and weaknesses, as a kind of OHS reality check. Once a word or a concept is understood communication has only started as an approximation. I was trying to allude to other, subtler tools of language that must also be understood. For example, it’s important to take note of tone, irony, sarcasm, analogy and metaphor. These are all tools used in ordinary conversations, they not only deliver information, but may in fact provide pointers to essential meanings intended. It’s hardly news to state that even a pause or a comma can make all the difference. Try, “What is this thing called ‘Love’?” and “What is this thing called, Love?”
I asked a worker on a large demolition project (that within a year killed a man) how good was the local OHS system and how well was it supported by management. The response was less than enthusiastic. I then tried to get a sense for actual OHS practice, I needed a real example. I asked this measured, neck-tattooed forklift operator of about 56 how he decided what size and type of forklift to use for which load. Was there a policy? Was there a standard operating procedure (SOP)? Was there any written document…….. or what? He was sitting at the time in one of the heavy forklifts on the site, a large machine about to lift and shift a huge load. Continue reading “A gut feeling for workplace risk”