The fatal consequences of riding in the tray of a pick-up or ute

In 2007, Pedro Balading fell off the back of a utility vehicle while working in remote outback Australia and died.  On 16 March 2010, the owner of the Wollogorang cattle station, Panoy P/L, was fined $A60,000 over the death.

According to one media report:

“Pedro Balading, a 35-year-old father of three, was a Manila piggeries supervisor who arrived at Wollogorang Station in early 2007 and found himself isolated, underpaid and performing menial jobs. He asked to go home but was told by his employer, Panoy Pty Ltd, and the labour hire firm that brought him from the Philippines to complete his two-year contract.”

Work Health Authority‘s executive director, Laurene Hull said in a media statement:

“The danger associated with travelling in the back of a moving utility, where the risk of falling from the moving vehicle can result in death or serious injury is common knowledge,” Ms Hull said.  “Panoy Pty Ltd failed to take appropriate steps to ensure the hazard posed by travelling in the back of utilities was known to the workers and the risks appropriately managed.” Continue reading “The fatal consequences of riding in the tray of a pick-up or ute”

Reviewing Today Tonight’s insulation exclusive

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”

Small business can equal depression, stress and mental health problems

According to an article in  the Australian Financial Review on 16 February 2010 (only available online through subscription):

“The isolation of working at home or in a small shop or factory by themselves can wear down many in the small and medium  enterprise sector.  In the most severe cases, it can lead to depression and cause major problems for their family and business.”

Andrew Griffiths provides a quote that illustrates well the work/life conflict in the small business sector: Continue reading “Small business can equal depression, stress and mental health problems”

Getting safety promotion right

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has come in for a lot of “stick” over the last few years by seemingly over-reacting to OHS hazards.  In many cases, these reports have come from a misinterpretation of OHS rules and guidelines or a misunderstanding of the basic principles of safety.  In some cases it is simply a beat-up my England’s tabloid media.

However, this attitude to safety and the creation of a misperception of OHS has annoyed the HSE.  Below is a video that the HSE produced, going by the tone of the video, in response to the bad press.

The “Right People” campaign seems familiar to many other campaigns attempted around the world and the introduction depicting silly headlines shows that the HSE is think-skinned.

Much more successful is the HSE’s recent campaign about safety in farming.   Continue reading “Getting safety promotion right”

Working remotely does not mean it has to be unsafe

Australia is a big country and people work in very remote locations.  However OHS obligations do not apply only when it is convenient.  The law and duties apply equally wherever work is undertaken.

One example of safety improvements for remote work has been illustrated by the Community & Public Sector Union (CPSU).  On 10 November 2009 CPSU informed its members of amendments to the “Remote Travel Standards Operating Protocols”.  Some of those changes include

“Travel is twin engine aircraft is usual practise, but staff may be required to fly in single engine aircraft from time to time.  Employees will have the choice not to fly on a single engine aircraft if they have legitimate concerns for their personal safety.”

This acknowledges that in the Outback there are not always options but that union members can exercise whatever is available.  This also supports the individual’s OHS obligation to keep themselves safe.

Vaccinations for Hep A and B will be offered to employees before their first field trip, during orientation to remote servicing.

This is a standard travel safety option but often applied only for international travel.  To offer this domestically is sensible.

The union has also managed to introduce a

Dedicated section in the post trip report for all OH&S issues, including issues in office accommodation, and living quarters.

Traditional wisdom is “be seen, be safe” but this also applies to reporting an OHS matter.  If a form does not state that OHS is included, then it is increasingly likely that an incident or issue will not be reported.  Organisations also cannot be seen as deterring the reporting of hazards and incidents.

The next option is curious and a trial seems appropriate

Management agreed to a 3 week trial beginning the 6 December 2009 for the use of personal alarms in case employees are confronted with acts of customer aggression, or other dangers in the field. Management will be asking staff for feedback on this, which will inform their decision on whether to provide or not provide personal alarms to employees into the future.

The issues of safety when travelling remotely have been negotiated for many months and the CPSU website posted regular updates on negotiations.

CPSU members and public servants need to travel to remote locations to provide a range of services.  For instance, Centrelink’s Annual Report for 2008-09 says that

“Centrelink Mobile Offices, including the Murray-Darling Basin Assistance Bus, continued to travel around rural Australia to provide information and assistance to farmers and small business owners, their families and rural communities.”

These mobile offices covered 40,000 kilometres in one year.

Australia is a big country and urban safety professionals and policy makers need to be regularly reminded that a desk in an office is not a default workplace.

The “Remote Travel Standards Operating Protocols” are not publicly accessible by SafetyAtWorkBlog will provide a link, whenever possible.

Kevin Jones

Dusty switchboard safety alert

The Northern Territory’s WorkSafe authority issues safety alerts infrequently so each new one is worth considering.  The alert released on 20 October 2009 concerns dust in exposed switchboard installed in remote locations.

sa0200907_000The alert is worthy of attention for several reasons but one is that electrical work in isolated locations can often be less safe than similar tasks closer to urban areas.  Some tradespeople in remote locations do only what they deem is necessary which is not always safe.

The other issue is identified in the alert itself.  Dust in electrical circuits can be a hazard in many circumstances and should be considered when installing switchboards.  The environment in which the electrical work is to be undertaken is an important consideration not only for the worker or tradesperson but also for the occupant of the house or the user of the article of plant, in the longer term.

Sometimes real bulldust is a greater hazard than political “bulldust”.

Kevin Jones

Public Comments – Fishing and Legionnaire’s

WorkSafe Western Australia has two documents currently open for public comment.   One concerns a draft code of practice  for the prevention of falls from commercial fishing vessels.  The other may have a wider appeal as it is a draft code of practice for the prevention and control of Legionnaires’ disease.

man_overboard coverThe man overboard code is an example of established hazard management and risk control options for a niche hazard in a niche working environment, however, it is often in these areas where procedural and technical processes are most easily recognised.  The draft code is in a format, and has a degree of clarity, that encourages discussion and examination.

Readers may find some useful information for those workers who work alone or in isolation, for those who need to undertake tasks at nighttime and in intense darkness, and for those workplaces that require a strict induction for new workers.

LEGIONNAIRES__Public_comment coverSimilarly, the Legionnaire’s code of practice builds on established risk management concepts and shows that businesses still need to prevent legionnaire’s infections even if there is a regulatory/licensing system in place for cooling towers.

On a formatting note, both these draft codes could have benefited from the regulators embracing more of the Web 2.0 concepts.  The PDF files do have some hyperlinks for some more information or emails but there could be a lot more effort put in to making the drafts a hub for the documents’ references.  For instance, mentions of legislation could lead to online versions so that those commenting online can flick back and forth from reference to topic.

[Just imagine how much more helpful a code of practice with such functionality could be to a small business – wiki + blog+ safety = better compliance]

In the Legionnaire’s draft there are tags on page 36 that could lead to the online text of the Acts referred to.  The tags are a good idea but could use increased functionality.

Lastly, the Legionnaire’s code references eight Australian Standards and publications.  It is a reasonable expectation that, for this hazard, industry submissions will be the majority and those parties already have the Standards.  However, if a broad consultation is required, many interested parties may find purchasing these Standards a substantial cost burden,  which SafetyAtWorkBlog calculated to be at least $A390 for the PDF versions.

Kevin Jones