OHS ROI pilot research in Queensland

Work Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) recently revealed some early research into the Return on Investment (ROI) of occupational health and safety (OHS) controls. (Thanks to a reader for pointing it out) According to its website:

“Recent pilot research in several Queensland  organisations found clear evidence of the cost effectiveness of safety interventions, including:

  • an automatic shrink wrapping machine at Rexel’s Tingalpa distribution centre that had an ROI of around $1.82 for every $1 of costs, and a payback of upfront costs of less than three years
  • an ergonomics intervention at BP Wild Bean Cafés with an ROI of $2.74 for every $1 of costs and a payback within the first month
  • a workplace health and wellbeing program at Port of Brisbane that had an ROI of $1.58 for every $1 of costs and a payback of 15 months.”

None of this “pilot research” is publicly available so it is not possible to verify the data. (WHSQ has been contacted for further information for a follow up blog article)  

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Hierarchy of Control podcast

It always surprises me when clients and colleagues ignore the Hierarchy of Controls when deciding what control measures to introduce.  Recently Oregon’s OSHA released a podcast about the Hierarchy of Controls which shares some of my concerns.

It was concerning that the podcast stated that some hierarchies place Administrative Controls on the same level as Engineering Controls and that some consider fall protection devices as Engineering Controls due the engineering of the anchor point (a dubious engineering control as this blog has discussed previously).

Below are several quotes from the 4 minute podcast Michael Wood of Oregon OSHA.

“A control that fully eliminates the hazard is always preferred to one that does not.”

“The hierarchy improves the control’s reliability.”

“The hierarchy of control recognises that perfection in human performance can not be attained.”

This short podcast is a good quick reminder to occupational health and safety professionals but could also be discussion catalyst on basic hazard management.

Kevin Jones

The “if you’re not sure, ask” campaign needs “if unsafe, fix”

WorkSafe Victoria has asked me in the past why I do not report on some of their successful activities and promotional campaigns.  Recently WorkSafe Victoria has been running what appears to be a very successful safety campaign focusing on young workers. The campaign is called “if you’re not sure, ask“.  The television and online advertisements again feature confronting workplace injuries but the significant difference in this case is that there is a social context about body image.  This element of the campaign is very effective however, from the perspective of an old fart of a safety professional, the advertisements miss the role of the supervisor and the importance of a safe working environment.

Continue reading “The “if you’re not sure, ask” campaign needs “if unsafe, fix””

It can take a long time to learn how to manage workplace safety

On 21 December 2012 in the South Australian Industrial Court, Amcor Packaging (Australia) was fined $A96,000 over a breach of the occupational health and safety (OHS) laws.  That type of sentence appears frequently in SafetyAtWorkBlog but the difference this time is that it is the third similar OHS prosecution and fine applied to Amcor in South Australia.  Amcor Packaging has had similar OHS problems in Queensland and Victoria.

According to a SafeWorkSA media release (not yet available online), the latest prosecution involved an incident in November 2010 where:

“Two workers were walking on conveyor rollers to guide an unstable stack of cardboard when one inadvertently stepped into a gap between the rollers. The female worker was then struck by the arm of an automated pallet sweeper, sustaining multiple fractures to her lower leg and ankle.”

Cover  from 2012_sairc_59In his judgment on the case, Industrial Magistrate Stephen Lieschke said there was no risk assessment at the plant and a lack of engineering controls.  The two previous Amcor offences in South Australia also related to inadequate engineering controls.


Magistrate Lieschke also said that

“The two prior offences are highly relevant to this sentencing process, as the court is left with a low level of confidence that Amcor will not commit any future offences…..,”

In June 2008 law firm Holding Redlich mentioned an increase in an OHS penalty against Amcor by the Court of Appeals: Continue reading “It can take a long time to learn how to manage workplace safety”

Woodchipper decision could set a worrying safety precedent

The development of Australia’s new Work Health and Safety laws relies on potential prosecutions and Court rulings to clarify various elements and definitions.  Some labour lawyers have forecast this clarification to take several years however last week The Warrnambool Standard reported on a decision by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) that provides a worrying clarification on the contentious definition of “as far as is reasonably practicable” from outside the anticipated Court structure.

WorkSafe Victoria placed an improvement notice on a woodchipper owned by the Warrnambool City Council following an incident in September 2011 where a worker, David Johnstone, had both hands removed by the blades of the woodchipper.  The improvement notice stated that additional guarding in the form of a “bump bar” be installed on woodchippers.  The Council requested a review of the notices through WorkSafe’s review processes.  The directions stood and the Council appealed to VCAT, as per the normal process.  VCAT found that the engineering controls demanded by WorkSafe were not required as the administrative controls advocated by the Council were found to have “reduced risk “so far as is reasonably practicable”.

The VCAT decision is concerning because it seems to conflict with the application of the Hierarchy of Controls for risk in which machine guarding, an engineering control, is considered a more effective control measure that administrative controls such as those favoured by the Council Continue reading “Woodchipper decision could set a worrying safety precedent”

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

Prompt investigation is essential to prevent injuries

Injuries at work are often dismissed as Report Only or other category that does not require an investigation.  But all incidents should be investigated and promptly.  A recent prosecution of a tuna company in South Australia illustrates this point well.

SafeWorkSA’s media release provides basic details:

“On the 23rd of January, a male employee suffered deep lacerations to his right index finger while attempting to clear a blockage of cardboard in a caser machine, which seals cardboard boxes.

On the 11th of February, a female employee suffered a serious hand injury when trapped by moving parts in the same unguarded opening of the same machine.

The male worker recovered from his injuries quickly, and but the female worker sustained serious bone, nerve and tendon damage, that left her right hand permanently impaired.”

The court was told that the investigation into the first incident was poor.  In fact the Industrial Magistrate, Stephen Lieschke, described it as “incompetent”. Continue reading “Prompt investigation is essential to prevent injuries”

Authority in denial?

Polite or ignorant?

Coroners can be a polite lot, preferring what they would call ‘substance’ to emotion, accuracy to grand standing.  They also hope that their Findings make a difference and help to protect people against a range of lethal circumstances.  Ex-coroner Graeme Johnstone (Victoria) was an outstanding example in OHS.   So any comments in their Findings ought to be considered against this background.

However, the comments by the South Australian State Coroner Mark Frederick Johns in his Findings (9/2/2011) in the death of Daniel Nicholas Madeley who died (6/6/2004) as a result of an occupational incident are puzzling.  Either the man is being very polite or seriously ignorant of what really goes on in industry.  And it does matter because coroners carry a lot of authority.  Work by Johnstone, Olle and Tasmanian coroners (mining disasters) has been very helpful.

Poor guarding

To paraphrase: Daniel was 18 years old when he died of ‘horrific injuries sustained when he was caught in a horizontal boring machine’.  He became entangled in the machine Continue reading “Authority in denial?”

Important OHS and legal issues in findings of South Australian Coroner into young man’s death

The debate on OHS laws will be passionate in the pre-election frenzy of New South Wales but the OHS law reform is a national strategy and the safety debate is not asleep in the other States.

On 11 February 2011, AAP ran an article about the long-lasting familial and social effects a horrible workplace incident in South Australia in 2004.  Diemould Tooling Services (fined in 2009) took its appeal against prosecution to the High Court of Australia in 2008 and on 10 February 2011, almost six years after the death of 18-year-old Daniel Madeley, South Australian Coroner Mark Johns has said, at Madeley’s inquest:

“A horizontal boring machine had been operated at Diemould for years in a condition which could only be described as deplorably unsafe. It could have been guarded, but was not. It could have had a braking system, but did not. It could have had an automated lubrication system, but did not.

“Many other things could have been done, but any one of these would have been sufficient to save Mr Madeley’s life….”

Coroner Johns was very critical of SafeWorkSA about its actions following the 2004 death.  The coroner’s findings make for disturbing reading on several issues. Continue reading “Important OHS and legal issues in findings of South Australian Coroner into young man’s death”