More on David Michaels’ book – “statistics are people with the tears wiped away”

I found time to read the rest of David Michaels’ latest book “The Triumph of Doubt“. It was loaded with information that is directly relevant to the Australian occupational health and safety (OHS) sector but more about the manipulation of facts and the stealth of lobbyists and influencers than on the hazards themselves. Here’s my take on some of his thoughts.

Two Australian case studies that would not have been out of place in a book like Michaels’, or even an Australian supplement to his book, were quad bikes and workplace mental health. Quad bike safety is the better fit with Michaels’ approach as many of the techniques of Zellner and Dynamic Research Incorporated, and the strategies of international all-terrain vehicle manufacturers, reflect the those strategies in the book.

David Michaels writes about chemicals, primarily, but many of his words hint that similar “doubt scientists” could be already in the psychological health and wellness sector, except these scientists are less about reacting to litigation and legislation than supporting and strengthening an industry in anticipation of increased regulatory scrutiny. “Pre-action”, perhaps?

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New air quality standards for outdoor work

On January 30 2020, the Victorian Trades Hall released a new “approved safety standard” on air quality risks for outdoor workers. It is the latest of a series of alerts and guidelines generated by the persistence of bushfire smoke in urban areas of, especially, New South Wales and Victoria. Bushfire smoke is only going to become more frequent in Australia, and its persistence over weeks, requires a coordinated discussion on how Australian workplaces and practices need to change to adapt to the new climate.

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What employers need to know: the legal risk of asking staff to work in smokey air

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The following article is reproduced from the excellent academic communication website The Conversation, and is written by Elizabeth Shi, a Senior Lecturer, in RMIT University‘s Graduate School of Business and Law. The article is a very useful contribution to managing the risks of working in smokey environments but is only one contribution to a discussion on occupational health and safety in smokey workplaces that has many, many months to go.

Amid thick bushfire smoke in cities including Canberra and Melbourne, employers need to consider their legal obligations.

Some have directed their workers not to turn up in order to avoid to occupational health and safety risks. Among them is the Commonwealth department of home affairs which last week asked most of its staff to stay away from its Canberra headquarters for 48 hours. Other employers want to know where they stand.

Continue reading “What employers need to know: the legal risk of asking staff to work in smokey air”

How much is safety a choice?

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Some time ago I had a run-in with a worker who repeatedly chose not to wear his hard hat.  He reasoned that as there were no overhead or head-high hazards in the work area the personal protective equipment (PPE) was not necessary.  He applied what some would call a risk-based decision and he was right.  But the worker was dismissed from the project (not by me) over his decision and because of his belligerence and verbal abuse over the matter.  The reality was that he showed disrespect to his employer (a subcontractor) and disregard to the safety rules of the contractor thereby eroding the safety culture that the contractor was trying to establish and maintain in order to, ultimately, satisfy the client.

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, September 8, 2018: Many road workers in orange vests are working on a busy inner city street. Source: istockphoto

There has been an increasing amount of discussion in the occupational health and safety (OHS) sector about trust.  There is little chance of achieving any change in a workplace without first of all establishing trust between the stakeholders, or at least a little bit of trust. But part of this trust is also respect. And part of this trust is that it should be earned… by everyone. Continue reading “How much is safety a choice?”