Religious wisdom on workplace safety

It is rare to visit the Bible when thinking about occupational health and safety but this week Australia’s Uniting Church, its Creative Ministries Network and the United Voices trade union released a report on the working condition of shopping centre cleaners.  In the report “Cutting Corners” there are many references to the Bible’s and the Church’s thoughts and actions on labour issues.

For instance, according to the report:

“…God is ‘against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow and the orphan’ (Malachi 3:5).”


“…the Prophet Muhammad underlined the importance of the just wage by saying, ‘give the employee his wages before his sweat has had time to dry’.”

The Uniting Church has strong arguments to justify its involvement in social equity matters.

“Cutting Corners” was a broad report based on hundreds of telephone interviews with cleaners.  The major safety-related findings of the survey were:

“The key violations borne by shopping centre cleaners constitute a litany of injustices, from low rates of pay, pay that is not commensurate with their Continue reading “Religious wisdom on workplace safety”

Farmer rescued from rare tractor rollover incident

Tractor rollovers are far less frequent in Australia than in previous decades due, principally, to major safety campaigns and financial rebates for the compulsory fitting of rollover protection structures (ROPS).  This fact makes the near death of a Victorian farmer on 17 August all the more surprising.

The most detailed report on the rescue, to the moment, is by Channel 7 but additional information is available from the ambulance service and through an audio statement* with the responding paramedic.  The Channel 7 reporter states that the tractor had no ROPS and this is true, to an extent.  SafetyAtWorkBlog has been advised that there was a ROPS for the tractor available on the farm but it had been detached.

At his early stage of the man’s recovery and incident investigation it is difficult to extrapolate OHS lessons or issues but any investigation is likely to ask about the risks of , amongst others,

  • working alone
  • the absence of ROPS
  • the competence of the “hobby farmer”
  • the working environment/terrain
  • the use of a trailer with this tractor.

It is believed that WorkSafe will be undertaking an investigation.

Kevin Jones

*very interesting social media initiative from the ambulance services

New OHS info on Working Alone and Occupational Violence

One of the most difficult safety management challenges is the control of hazards associated with working alone.  The most effective control is to not work alone, but the difficulty comes because this option requires expenditure.

WorkSafe Victoria recently released an information sheet on this hazard and listed the following hazard control options:

  • Buddy system
  • Environmental design
  • Communication or location systems
  • Alarms
  • Movement records
  • Training
  • Knowledge sharing

WorkSafe wisely says that most workplaces will require a combination of these options to control the hazard of working alone.

Trying to reduce the hazards of working alone is a terrific indication of the economic health of a business, the level of safety commitment of a business owner or manager, and the state of safety knowledge in the company. Continue reading “New OHS info on Working Alone and Occupational Violence”

Rolling the sleeves up – a good OHS technique.

My father has a smallish block up in the bush, north-east Victoria in the Ovens Valley.  He can’t live there safely anymore, but since he built the place himself and with all the family history it has, it’s a place that has to be retained, and protected from bushfire as much as we reasonably can manage.

My partner and I, plus Dah (and a coupla friends) spent a few weeks there around Christmas and New Year doing lots of scrub clearing, garden things and general tidying up in readiness for the predicted return to hot dry summers after that naughty La Nina begins to fade.   These sort of work trips have been going on over quite a few summers.

The big range of jobs on these tidying-up trips range from trimming large branches, working up on roofs, scrub clearing, lots of load shifting, burn-offs, using lots of different powered equipment (chainsaw, scrub-cutters) and dragging out cut scrub with the ute etc etc.

Doing this work has me often giving lots of thought to doing the job efficiently and safely, and observing my own safety stuff-ups.  It gives me a chance to reflect on the safety system stuff we spend lots of time lecturing punters on and how practical it all is when there is limited time to get the job done, it’s 30 degrees Celsius, and the humidity is at a zillion; in other words, in work conditions lots of people have to deal with all the time. Continue reading “Rolling the sleeves up – a good OHS technique.”

Scissor lift pins worker to door frame

The Victorian Ambulance Service reported a serious and curious workplace incident that occurred on 26 May 2010.  According the Ambulance Service media statement workers found a the 25-year-old man was trapped “with his neck pinned between a door frame and the rails of a scissor lift machine..”.

The worker was not breathing and so workers  moved him to a safe area and commenced CPR. Paramedics needed to place the man in an induced coma in order to insert a breathing tube.  He was taken to hospital in a critical condition and no further details about the patient are publicly available.

WorkSafe advised SafetyAtWorkBlog that it is investigating and believes the incident occurred when the man was manoeuvring a scissor lift through a doorway, and was pinned between the bottom of the door frame and the scissor lift.

There are scant details available at the moment but the incident serves to remind companies about allowing some tasks to be undertaken without supervision and to take additional care with motorised plant.

Kevin Jones

Important OHS court decisions go unreported

On 20 May 2010 a Victorian magistrate fined an employer over $A500,000 following a workplace prosecution.  Almost all of it went to charity, according to WorkSafe Victoria.

There are several issues raised by Magistrate Vandersteen’s decision:

  • Why to charity?
  • Why the particular charities?
  • Why not allocate the funds to OHS-related organisations or initiatives?
  • Why does the Magistrates’ Court not make court decisions publicly available?

The workplace incident that started this case was that in August 2008, a 40-year-old man had his arm ripped out of the socket when it became tangled in an unguarded post peeler.   He was taken to hospital by an emergency ambulance helicopter where his life was saved. Continue reading “Important OHS court decisions go unreported”

Mining company trial set over cyclone deaths

Further to the SafetyAtWorkBlog article about the prosecution of Fortescue Metals Group, The Australian newspaper reports on 28 April 2010 that the trial will start tomorrow.

The article states that

“Lawyers for the Department of Commerce — prosecuting the case through WorkSafe — successfully argued the site was not a mine and was instead a camp for workers constructing a railway to transport iron ore.”

The company was arguing that the site was a mining support site and that its contractors were responsible.

Interestingly the Magistrate, Joe Randazzo, wants a definition of “safe refuge”.  This may lead to a reconsideration of the use of dongas, or temporary accommodation units, in areas of extreme weather conditions.  There is the potential for safety improvements from this case and not just  a punishment.

Kevin Jones